Dignity Health using Google Glass to improve clinical efficiency

By Jeff Lagasse
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When Google Glass was first launched, it was targeted primarily to consumers, the idea being that they would be able to access the web within their line of vision utilizing what was billed as sleek and stylish technology. But it may have found new life in professional settings, including healthcare, where clinicians are using it to increase efficiency.

Dignity Health has been among the first to use Glass in clinical settings, and so far it’s been a boon. Dr. Davin Lundquist, vice president and chief medical information officer of Dignity Health of San Francisco, has been using the device for the past three-plus years, having pushed the health system’s innovation officer to adopt the technology due to its hands-free nature.

“(Google) sort of imagined it could be a smartphone-like device, and I had the opportunity to use one in that capacity,” said Lundquist. “It didn’t resonate with me. It wasn’t easy and intuitive to work with in terms of those consumer-like tasks. … But in the office Glass was great."

“In the medical profession, we’re used to using tools and other instruments as part of our trade,” he said. “It seemed to fit much better than in the consumer world.”

The newest and latest version of Glass has improved WiFi capability, the battery lasts longer, the resolution is better and according to Lundquist it’s more streamlined -- not markedly different, but certainly an evolution that has enhanced Dignity’s clinical capabilities.

When Lundquist walks into his office in the morning, the first thing he does is pull up his Glass device. The proprietary software, Augmedix, boots up and links with his computer, which displays a QR code on the screen; Lundquist simply looks at the code with his Glass and the system logs him into a secure connection with “remote scribes,” who essentially take his notes for him. Then he starts seeing patients.

That’s where the efficiency comes in. With a medically trained remote scribe, or “copilot,” watching the patient encounter through a real-time video and audio stream, Lundquist’s notes are captured for him, encapsulating the essence of the encounter in medically appropriate language and helping Lundquist form a diagnosis more quickly.

“It saves us a tremendous amount of time, because by the time I’m done interacting with the patient, my notes are essentially complete,” he said. “It shaves hours off of our time.”

With that extra time, physicians can either improve their quality of life by going home to spend time with their families, or they can squeeze in extra patients, thereby boosting the practice financially.

Either way, it’s been putting the focus back on the patients.

“Our physicians are our most valuable asset,” said Lundquist. “They’re obviously smart enough and bright enough to make it through medical school to get to the point where they can provide physician-level care. But our medical records and documentation systems so far have turned them into clerks … and it gets in the way a little bit of doctors being doctors. Glass has allowed us to get back to our main mission, which is seeing patients.”