Putting smart glasses to work

Putting smart glasses to work

Imagine EHR data compiled without sacrificing patient face-time, or staff able to access records without lifting a finger—some of the promises new technological developments in smart glasses could bring to doctors in the not-so-distant future.

"Optometry could be at the forefront of this venture."

"The possibilities are just endless," says Dominick Maino, O.D., member of the AOA New Technology Committee. And that potential is closer than one would think.

Going to work
Among the front-runners in smart glasses, Google Glass made inroads with industry this past year with launch of its Glass at Work program that encourages developers' collaboration to advance workplace uses for the head-mounted computer.

Although Google recently announced an end to the "Explorer" program, the company vowed to "move even more from concept to reality" and take feedback from the public trial into consideration for a next generation device.

That said, 10 Glass Certified Partners have signed on to develop real-world applications for Glass, most of which focus on jobs where hands-free is not only more efficient, but also essential. As can be expected, much of the program's excitement comes in the health care arena.

Several of these enterprise partners have already taken off as developers of EHR-streamlining software, and still other tech companies not involved in the program are growing into the niche, as well.

The bottom line: Wearable tech is the cutting edge of consumer technology, and as more companies develop smart glasses, real-time applications flourish for health care—and the optometric practice.

Envisioning the future
But wearable tech integration doesn't end with EHR alone. Dr. Maino says "optometry could be at the forefront of this venture," incorporating smart glasses into everyday practice with a wealth of possibilities for the devices, including:

  • Practice management. In the same way smart glasses would help patient rapport by increasing face-time, staff could access records via smart glasses without ever turning away from patients. Andrew Morgenstern, O.D., a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton whose current assignment is with the Vision Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, imagines staff and ODs using wearables to streamline communication throughout the practice. "For example, the staff could say, 'Doctor, you have a contact lens fitting in room 2, but an emergency in room 3. Go to room 3 immediately,'" Dr. Morgenstern says.

  • Clinical applications. A practice of the future could implement smart glasses in a manner similar to that of a slit-lamp, suggests Dr. Maino. With appropriate optics, doctors could view the retina and record the exam directly into an EHR. A specialist in pediatrics and binocular vision, Dr. Maino also sees possibilities in using smart glasses for vision therapy or to aid low-vision patients.

  • Comprehensive patient interactions. As more people begin using wearable tech for mobile health monitoring or fitness tracking, Dr. Morgenstern envisions a future where doctors could build upon that data to help track vital signs, such as blood pressure, blood glucose or heart rate.

"None of these are a thousand years in the future; all of them are possibilities in the next 20 years, I would think," Dr. Maino says.

Read more about wearable technology in the optometric practice in the October 2014 edition of AOA Focus.

January 21, 2015

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