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Google Glass—or just “Glass,” as Google calls it—is starting to become a mainstream health care tool. Earlier this year, for example, Indiana surgeons used it to pull up MRI and X-ray images of a patient during surgery without having to use their hands or take their eyes off the patient.

Paul Szotek, MD, led the surgical team at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He said Glass was much more than a toy:

This Star Trek–style technology could really have a major impact on how we practice medicine.

Dr. Szotek is an IU Health trauma surgeon. He was quoted in a news release from the hospital.

Glass consists of an ultralight titanium frame that holds a computer, a camera, and a glass cube above the right eye. The device can project still and moving images onto the cube, within the user’s field of vision. It responds to head motions, voice commands, and swipes and taps on its frame.

Dr. Szotek said he believed Glass could be revolutionary. Combining it with tracers could help surgeons better distinguish tumors from healthy tissue, and first responders could send images of injuries to trauma centers so doctors could prepare while patients were being transported, he said.

Earlier this month, the Boston Globe reportedBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston expanded a pilot Glass program so that it now includes the entire emergency department. Steven Horng, MD, said it helped him save the life of a patient with bleeding in the brain. The patient said he was allergic to some blood pressure drugs but couldn’t remember which ones. Dr. Horng immediately called up the patient’s electronic medical records on Glass and quickly gave the man the correct medication.

“We’re doing this to prove that the technology can work and really motivate others to explore this space with us,” said Dr. Horng, who also has degrees in computer science and medical informatics.

When a conversation with a patient triggers a need for information, he said, “Rather than having to excuse myself, it means I can quickly access that information without having to interrupt the patient, lose eye contact, or even leave the room.”

Beth Israel Deaconess has begun posting QR codes (the ones that look like square bar codes) on the doorways to patients’ rooms. When Glass reads the QR code, it links to the patient’s medical records.

Dr. Horng summed up the benefits this way: “Not only is it hands-free, it’s always on, always in front of you, and always giving you information.”

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