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Google Glass in the NICU: Stephanie Shine’s Medical Mission


Google Glass could allow parents to track their NICU babies’ progress from afar, lowering depression and anxiety. Photo via NICU Wiki.

When Stephanie Shine, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) nurse, delivered her son Samuel 3.5 months before his intended due date, he weighed 1 pound, 2 ounces. She delivered him early at BWH due to severe preeclampsia and became incredibly sick after the delivery, which meant that she couldn’t see Sam for the first 18 hours of his life. “I was overwhelmed by the extreme sense of helplessness,” Shine remembers. “But my sister came to visit from California a few weeks after his birth and she brought Glass with her.”

Shine used Google Glass to video conference with her son and her family in California. She showed them what it was like to look at her tiny baby through the isolette. Glass helped her feel a little bit less helpless as she watched her son grow.

Eight months later, when Sam was healthy and out of the hospital, Shine’s brother-in-law gave her a pair of Glass when they became available to the public. She decided to donate them to the NICU.

“I imagined parents wearing Glass while they peered into the top of the isolette to see their tiny baby, all the while streaming the footage to grandparents or loved ones who couldn’t visit the ICU,” she said. “I knew that it would be complicated because of HIPPA and was not surprised to hear that the standard out-of-the-box Glass would be prohibited at BWH. However, I knew there must be a way that we could make this technology safe. It was worth pursuing if the end result was an improvement in patient well-being.”

Now, Shine is back on the nursing floor and applying for IRB approval to conduct a Google Glass Pilot in the NICU at BWH. “I’m particularly interested in the video conference feature that Glass offers,” she says. “We’re aiming to evaluate whether the use of novel technologies like secure video conferencing might enhance a mother’s ability to bond with her infant when they are separated in the immediate post-partum period.”

Shine also hopes to study the use of Glass during immediate separation, like what she experienced during the first days of her son’s life. She thinks Glass might help mitigate feelings of isolation, helplessness, anxiety and depression both during the separation and later on.

Unsurprisingly, Shine has run into several road blocks during this mission, the largest of which is HIPPA compliance. In order to maintain compliance, she has to purchase Glass from Pristine Co., the only company that currently offers high-definition, HIPPA-compliant software. She says that within a big institution like Brigham and Women’s or Partner’s, implementing new technologies can be tough, and innovative thinkers have to be ready for many ‘no’s before the ‘yes’s.

But Shine believes that the barriers to Google Glass are far outweighed by the benefits the new technology offers. “The real power of Glass is the connectivity it provides both patients and providers,” she says. “You can see things from another person’s perspective, and I think there’s a lot of power in that. As providers, we could use Glass to see what it’s like to be a patient, and we can use that information to improve patient care.”

Glass also offers connectivity for providers, allowing medical organizations to learn from each other by seeing procedures or interactions from another perspective.

“I honestly have endless ideas for how Glass could be used in medicine,” Shine says. “I’m incredibly optimistic for the future of wearable technology.”

Glass and Sammy

Shine with her son, Sam, and Google Glass. Photo provided by Shine.

Join Stephanie Shine, RN; Dr. Jennifer Joe; Dr. Karandeep Singh; Don Schwartz; Dr. Tristan Gorrindo; and Carlos Rodarte at Pri-Med’s East Conference for a panel on the power of Google Glass in Healthcare, September 13th at noon. Register here under “Ticketed Events, Saturday”.

Jenni Whalen

Jenni Whalen

    Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.

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