Is the tail wagging the dog when it comes to finding medical applications for hot new technology like Google Glass? Dr. Matthew S. Katz, medical director of radiation oncology at Lowell General Hospital in Massachusetts thinks so.
Katz, writing in a KevinMD.com blog about social media practices in health care, says developers of medical applications for Google Glass and other innovative and wearable technologies are going about it backward:
"To me it makes more sense to identify a clinically relevant problem and then look at what tools may provide a practical solution. Maybe Glass will be that solution for some problems in the future, but I will wait until it's worth adding yet another medical device into my medical practice."
Katz is surely in the minority, as the article "Frothy Times for Google Glass in Healthcare" says, and as any number of similar headlines will tell you. But his contrarian view about the much-hyped transformative nature of Google Glass and medicine is an Rx anyone interested in wearable IT should carefully consider. Here are four areas of concern:
Venture capitalist are very excited about the potential of Google Glass in operating rooms and other hospital settings, the Wall Street Journal reported in an article about the recent Health Innovation Summit sponsored by San Francisco Bay Area medical-technology incubator Rock Health.
In Katzís view, Google Glass, with its ability to take pictures or video of people without permission, could cause serious infringements on individual privacy unless proper disclosures are made in advance. Imagine that scenario in a hands-free emergency room, while clinicians wearing Google Glass perform triage after a major accident or disaster. "The bar should be higher in medicine than [for] the general public," he writes. Thatís an understatement, for sure!
Lookout Mobile, a San Francisco-based mobile-security firm, this summer identified a Glass vulnerability that could be executed when someone wearing the device takes a picture with a QR code or website link. The vulnerability, which Google subsequently fixed, could allow hackers to obtain personal information or force the device to send SMS messages that involving financial information. If that exploit was the first Google Glass attack, Iím sure it wonít be the last.
Doctors and nurses, like most people, are constantly multitasking. But how successful are clinicians, really, when they are trying to do more than a few things at once? Studies conducted over the past few years by the National Center for Biotechnology Information have explored the relationships between performance and the strain of multitasking, Katz says. The results do not inspire confidence. "Some of the decreased performance may lessen with experience," he writes. "But that means potential distractions like Google Glass may require some formal training before routine use in clinics."
Googleís business model
Katz has more than a few issues with Google's relationship with the NSA and its controversial Prism program. But his best argument about Google-as-a-Healthcare-Service relates to the search companyís lack of experience working directly with customers. At Google, he observes, customer service has historically been automated. But if problems arise with Glass in medical care, the issues must be quickly identified and addressed. "Iím just not sure that Google is interested or able to adapt this device effectively to patient care."
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