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  • Megan Wild

Google Glass is back : Doctors can receive patient notes in real time, in their peripheral vision


Healthcare in the U.S. is quickly revolutionizing with help from modern AR technologies including Google Glass Enterprise Edition. In just the Sutter Health network alone, and in just the last three years, more than 175,000 patients in the Southern California region have experienced firsthand the benefits of bringing Google Glass into the physician-patient relationship. The potential is huge. After using Google Glass, some physicians reported freeing up about two hours in an average day. That’s time they previously spent on the organizational and bureaucratic demands of practicing medicine, such as typing up patient notes.

But how does it work?

Pilot programs used Google Glass and its augmented reality capabilities to add an additional layer of oversight to even routine checkups. Scribes maintain contact with physicians as they attend to patients through Google Glass itself. It’s pretty futuristic stuff: the doctor can receive notes in real time, in their peripheral vision, from the Scribe with updates about the patient and even reminders to follow up on patient comments the doctor may have missed the first time. The idea of inviting another party into the doctor’s office with patients might sound intrusive, but as with everything else that goes on in medicine, privacy is of paramount importance.

According to Dr. Albert Chan of Sutter Health, more than 90 percent of his patients accepted the technology and found it helpful. Adoption rates will likely take care of themselves when the benefits of AR technology become more widely known. Few people enjoy overly long wait times— especially when they’re not feeling well— but AR technology can help take a great deal of the burden and stress off already overburdened healthcare workers and allow them to focus on the practice of medical care instead of the paperwork, even if it’s the digital kind of paper.

Progress is also being made in supply chain. DHL is demonstrating how Glass and AR technology in general can streamline another familiar task: the administration of a warehouse and the shunt-and-shuffle of sending parcels all over the country and the world. The company calls its early Glasspowered efforts “visual picking”— and it’s already seeing augmented reality deliver great results in the location and classification of packages in warehouses. Put more simply, it further reduces the chance of human error and makes it that much more likely that the right package make it to the right destination.


The adoption rate among Dr. Chan’s patients is hugely encouraging: it means that if augmented reality can catch on in something as personal and important as medicine, it can realistically gain a foothold everywhere else, too. If the time savings it has already brought to medicine and manufacturing prove consistent among the other industries we rely on for modern life, we can look forward to a huge lift in our collective productivity and, potentially, even our health and happiness. Naturally, Google isn’t alone in the quest to make AR technology relevant to each of us and to industry. Apple’s new flagship smartphone, the iPhone X, has AR technology built in—all that’s missing is an accompanying headset, which the Cupertino tech company is already reportedly working on.

Google has a sizable head start, but as with every emerging technology, we’ll soon be spoiled for choice and will likely be able to pick our AR headsets based on the same criteria we apply to the rest of our technologies: our design sensibilities, and our operating systems of choice. Granted, it might be some time before anyone comes up with a pair of augmented reality glasses fashion-forward enough to bring this tech into the lives of mainstream consumers and choosy fashionistas. For that to happen, the underlying technologies need to see even more miniaturization. Nevertheless, alongside the host of other Industry 4.0 achievements quickly changing the face of business across the world, augmented reality is clearly a force that’s here to stay. Business leaders who choose to ignore AR technology will do so at their own peril after it becomes as ubiquitous—and as self-evidently useful—as the internet did those long years ago.

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