Google Glass in medicine, all hype or the start of a revolution?

Several months ago, I wrote a piece on how I thought Google Glass could Revolutionize Medicine. Since that time, Google Glass has been released as part of the Explorers project, and will reach the general public in late 2013.

The question becomes, has Google Glass been all hype, or is there something there for the future of medicine?

Overall, there have been many supporters and detractors of Google Glass. One large issue is having a new device that other technology has the ability to fulfill. Why not use technology readily available at this time, instead of an expensive new contraception that looks “silly?” There are already mountable cameras, such as GoPro, that could be used instead. We already have Skype, Facetime, and SMS — do we need another avenue to do a Google Hangout?

In addition, another issue facing Google Glass is the price. With a $1500 price tag, adapting Google Glass would be double the cost of an iPad, which many professionals currently balk at purchasing.

The Explorer Project is ongoing, with much input that may affect the final product design. Google Glass may be a major game changer, similar to how the iPhone was in launching a new realm of smartphones. Another example is the rise of the iPad, which led to the subsequent revolution within the tablet market–leading to the death of Netbooks.

Despite the fact that the technology was there and worked, along came new devices which improved upon the existing format, and thus created a new avenue for further technological growth.

The question of price is also concerning. Forbes recently ran a piece that argued it could be possible for the current price to drop dramatically to around $500, depending on what Google decides to do about the current model’s design.

Of note, the issue of privacy is still a concern. As mentioned before, the ability to record others without their notice (especially if they are not paying attention) worries many.  Even with our current available technology, medical professionals overstep their limits, whether via social media or recordings. However, that does not mean Google Glass cannot be used appropriately, as Dr. Rafael Grossmann demonstrated when he gained patient consent to record a PEG tube placement.

Indeed, Dr. Grossmann and Mr. Rodley have already achieved several areas I envisioned in my original piece on how Google Glass can impact medicine, whether it is in surgery, coordinating rapid responses, or performing telemedicine. Others have agreed that its impact on medical education could be great due to simulation.

At the end of the day, it must be admitted that wearable computing is taking off, and Google Glass could be one iteration of the inevitable forms of wearable devices that will become a mainstay in medicine.


Timothy Aungst, PharmD

Digital Pharmacist seeking to integrate technology and mHealth into pharmacy practice and patient care. Assistant Professor by day, blogger and writer by night.

Follow Me

Click to view 4 Comments

4 Responses to Google Glass in medicine, all hype or the start of a revolution?

  1. MarylandMD July 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Yes, it is great to see that our dream of seeing PEG tube placements is now a reality with Google Glass. Prior to this development, there was no way to film a PEG tube placement or to put the video of a PEG tube placement up on the web. You are right to celebrate this breakthrough in modern medicine.

  2. Kyle Samani July 30, 2013 at 1:42 pm #


    I run a Glass startup. We write apps for surgery for Glass. We’re launching our first pilots shortly.

    Either my investors and pilots are crazy, or Glass is going to be BIG in healthcare. REALLY BIG.


  3. John Bennett MD August 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Google Glass will eventually find medical niches, where it is useful.

    I see it having the following medical niches:

    1) Surgery: leaves the surgeons hands free, and the viewer gets the same view as the surgeon; also surgeon can record the operation, for later reference; better than someone heaving a camera around the operating field. Probably, after a while, no one will notice.

    2) Teletrauma: This has not been tested yet, and I hope Rafael Grossmann MD of Maine, who already established that an iPod may have a place in the field for teletrauma, does the same testing with Google Glass. Maybe he can bend the ear of Sergey Brin at the Stanford Medicine X conference the end of September, where he is a speaker to get a couple of dozen of Google Glass sets to get rural EMTs to do some in the field testing.
    It seem that Google Glass would be superior to the hand held iPod, because the usually understaffed EMTs are busy using their hands, to extricate, start IV, set up monitors, etc.
    and don’t have the extra set of hands to man an iPod. Just put it on a noggin, and do the normal stuff.
    3) Busy clinics: I see it being a useful accessory, again, for a doctor that does not want to have a camera person pointing a Smartphone camera at a skin lesion, etc. but can easily, while inspecting the skin lesion, simply look at it, describe it to the camera, give instructions to the patients, etc. all being recorded both for the doctors chart, and well as the potential to be emailed to the patient, so they can review it again, and again.

    john bennett md

Leave a Reply