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Google Glass makes new inroads in healthcare

Remember Google Glass? It didn't have much of an impact in the consumer space. So for the past few years, Google has been refocussing its Glass efforts on business uses. Augmented reality, more than virtual reality, might be the new direction to take for connected devices and wearables like smart glasses, market research companies like ABI and Strategy Analytics believe. Google Glass is proving this with new inroads into, among others, healthcare applications.

Earlier in July of this year, Google unveiled the latest line up: Glass Enterprise Edition, a new version of the technology catered to the workplace. The business market, more specifically industries like manufacturing, logistics and healthcare, might bring the success Google Glass didn’t find with consumers. After two years in a limited program, Glass Enterprise Edition is now available to more businesses through a network of Google expert partners, the development team at X (formerly Google X) recently wrote in a  blog.

Reducing errors, improving efficiency

‘Back in 2014, my team was at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio, watching how mechanics assemble and repair airplane engines,’ Jay Kothari, project Lead, Glass, writes. ‘Airplane maintenance is a complex and specialized task, and any errors can lead to expensive delays or having to conduct the entire maintenance process all over again. The mechanics moved carefully, putting down tools and climbing up and down ladders to consult paper instructions in between steps.’

Now, GE’s mechanics use Glass running software from Google partner Upskill, which shows them instructions with videos, animations and images right in their line of sight so they don’t have to stop work to check their binders or computer to know what to do next. ‘Since using Glass with Upskill, they estimate that they have not only reduced errors at key points in the assembly and overhaul of engines, but that they have improved their mechanics’ efficiency by between 8–12%’.

GE was one of the first businesses to experience the benefits of Glass in the workplace. Since then over 50 businesses have joined the experience. AGCO, DHL, Dignity Health, NSF International, Sutter Health,The Boeing Company, and Volkswagen, to name few, have been using Glass to complete their work faster and more easily than before, Kothari says: ’Based on the feedback we’ve received from these customers in a special program we’ve been running for the past two years, we’re now making Glass Enterprise Edition available to more businesses through our network of partners.’

No switching between hands and content

Glass is a very small, lightweight wearable computer with a transparent display that brings information into line of sight. In a work setting, people can clip it onto glasses or industry frames like safety goggles so they don’t have to switch focus between what the’re doing with their hands and the content they need to see to do their job.

Workers in fields like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy. ‘That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customized software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields,’ Kothari elaborates. ‘We’ve also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it’s lightweight and comfortable for long term wear. We’ve increased the power and battery life too.’

A few healthcare examples from the blog:

Doctors at Dignity Health have been using Glass with an application Google partner Augmedix calls “a remote scribe”. Now, instead of typing on a computer during consultations, they can connect with patients by looking them in the eye, listening as they talk, and asking questions?—?all with confidence that all the note taking work is being done in the background.

Dignity’s Chief Medical Information Officer, Dr. Davin Lundquist says that in addition to improving their quality of care, Glass has also reduced the time they spend typing up patient notes and other administrative work from 33 percent of their day to less than 10 percent, while doubling the amount of time they interact with patients.

Dr. Albert Chan at Sutter Health has a similar story. Using Glass with Augmedix, doctors at Sutter Health estimate that they have reduced the amount of time they spend on electronic health record keeping by around two hours a day. He also says Glass has “brought the joys of medicine back to my doctors” because it lets them focus on patients instead of technology.

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