Real Talk: Is Wearable Tech Actually Useful in Medicine?

Image via iwbag.

Image via iwbag.

Google Glass has had a rocky run this last year, and the medical field fell in love (or maybe infatuation), riding along with Glass through all of it. We started our company (Remedy) to make Google Glass fulfill a vision for medical professionals— what is Remedy’s take now that the honeymoon is over? Did medicine (and our company) get ensnared into a toxic relationship?

Here’s what we think: Glass isn’t there yet. It’s not fulfilling the lofty hopes and dreams health care has hoisted on it. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t taught us anything.

Your doctor should maintain eye contact with you and have her hands free to examine you the whole time she’s in the room with you. She should be able to look up important details about you without getting distracted on a laptop. Of course it would be great if she could consult any health expert in the world and hear them answer back while you’re in the room together.

Google Glass took on a critical problem: medicine is too complex to fit inside a single brain and the complexity has got doctors running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Glass aimed to be a tool that stopped doctors from having to run around — it would sit right by the doctor’s head and expand her brain to encompass your whole health record, and imaging, and a network of experts, and the internet. I admire Google and all of the enterprising clinicians who wanted to take that much knowledge on.

What’s weird is, outside of medicine, we’ve been doing this long before Google Glass. All of us have expanded our brains and our reach with our cell phones — they have become indispensable extensions of our bodies. But cell phones didn’t enhance medicine the same way. Medical apps lagged far behind. Doctors still use pagers.

Google Glass broke through that mental block, and got doctors to rethink the big clunky computers in our offices… that maybe it would make for a better bedside relationship if we turned away from those computers and got close to our patients again. That maybe the convenience and power cell phones have granted in every other aspect of our lives could make us care for patients better. And what’s great is, now that doctors are thinking that way, it’s not about Google Glass anymore.

Doctors are finally starting to demand technology that deepens their relationship with patients rather than interrupting it. A wearable computer like Google Glass, if done right, could accomplish that. Remedy recently realized that it’s not just Google Glass that could do it though — cell phones and tablets could advance clinical practice a lot more than they currently are, too.

So for now, Remedy uses Google Glass to the best of its abilities. We published an opinion with our collaborators at Harvard on how wearable tech could be used best in the future. But in the meantime, Remedy is also taking advantage of other mobile devices like cell phones and tablets that could be much more useful to doctors, solving this same problem.

This post comes from our content partnership with Remedy. See their original post on Medium and ask Gina any question on our MedTech Boston Talk forum.

Gina Siddiqui

Gina Siddiqui

    Gina Siddiqui thinks we're at the start of an upheaval of our modern health system so she left her last year of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania to shape it. Before founding Remedy, she worked on a nation-wide telemedicine program that brought the 90 day wait time for a dermatologist's assessment in Philadelphia to under an hour and cut new patient visits from 60 minutes down to 5. She also worked in the health systems of Botswana, Chile, and Pakistan to deliver care with limited resources. Gina has authored pieces on the future of healthcare in TIME, Quartz, and for organizations such as The Advisory Board Company.

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