Google Glass hasn’t really caught the attention of many people. There really isn’t much enthusiasm surrounding the project due to the awkward design and the privacy concerns surrounding it, but Google’s device does have some interesting uses. Google Glass is currently under beta testing and available through Google’s “Explorers” program, where if you are selected, you are eligible to purchase the product at a cost of $1500.

Recently, Dr. Steve Horng, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was treating a patient suffering from a massive brain bleed. Normally, to reference a patient’s records, a doctor might have to visit a workstation computer or retrieve a tablet. In this instance, Dr. Horng was wearing a version of Google Glass, which provided him the means to reference the patient’s information while treating him simultaneously.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is one of a few hospitals that are test-driving this technology. The hospital has developed a proprietary QR code system for use, allowing those wearing Google Glass to scan a QR code located on the wall of a patient’s room. Scanning this code allows the device to pull up the patients’ relevant records and information. The CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. John Halamka, created a blog post describing their system and how it can be utilized.

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In the Emergency Department we’ve been evaluating an early unit of Google Glass, a high tech pair of glasses that includes a video camera, video screen, speaker, microphone, touch pad, and motion sensor.

Clinicians can now speak with the patient, examine them, and perform procedures while simultaneously seeing data from the ED Dashboard in their field of view.

– Dr. John Halamka

This variant of Google Glass in use by Dr. Horng and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is one of several available from Wearable Intelligence. The device features much of the same hardware as the original but is modified to lock the device down, removing unnecessary functionality and adding in more field-specific functions, such as a medical dictionary provided by Nuance. Wearable Intelligence builds solutions using wearable technology and offers several software suites for Google Glass. These devices allow other clinicians to supervise or guide colleagues through diagnoses or procedures by providing two-way text and audio communications that are coupled with point-of-view video.

One example of the device’s point-of-view streaming in use occurred when Dr. Christopher Kaeding, a surgeon at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, performed a surgery while consulting with a distant colleague using the video from within the operating room via Google Glass. Dr. Kaeding stated he “often forgot the device was there. It just seemed very intuitive and fit seamlessly.” The device is similar to traditional glasses but lacks actual lenses, instead using a small glass block that is located near the right eye. Visible on this glass screen is a multitude of information at the ready just by verbally issuing commands. Adjacent to this glass screen is the Google Glass camera, which allows users to take photos and video while worn.

With more hospitals such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and organizations like Wearable Intelligence at the forefront of testing the validity of these products, the future looks promising. While still in its infancy, Google Glass and similar technologies are paving the way for how medical professionals interact in their environment and with their patients.


  1. Brodkin J. ER Doctors use Google Glass and QR codes to identify patients. Ars Technica website. March 12, 2014.
  2. Gannes L. A Google Glass app that would be hard for even the haters to hate. Re/code website. April 8, 2014.
  3. Halamka J. Wearable computing at BIDMC. Geek Doctor at Blogspot website. March 12, 2014.
  4. Ohio State doctor shows promise of Google Glass in live surgery. OSU website. August 27, 2013.
  5. Wearable Intelligence website.