Hodei Technology helps hospitals use Google Glass for surgical collaboration; rural telemedicine

By Jonah Comstock
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A lot of people think Google Glass, the tech company's experiment with augmented reality and wearable computing, died when the Glass Explorer program closed up shop in 2015. In fact, the technology has continued to find a home with enterprise applications, particularly in healthcare.

Indianapolis-based Hodei Technology is bringing Glass to hospitals in two different ways: as a tool for surgeons to teach, communicate, and collaborate (via a product called Ikasi) and, via a product called Gemini, as a new kind of telemedicine, which CEO Guy Mascaro describes as "first person point-of-view telepresence”.

“With us, we’re hands free,” Mascaro told MobiHealthNews. “The Gemini unit can also stream [visual data from a] fluoroscope or ultrasound or derm wand or otoscope. And that’s what other telemedicine equipment can do, but everything else is either cart-based or you have to hold it — like an iPhone, an iPad, or a computer. So you never really get that first person point of view. So the fact that we’re hands free and you see through the eyes of the individual you are coaching, mentoring, or directing is really what the difference is all about.”

Ikasi is being deployed in surgical centers in the US, largely as a training tool, but also to facilitate surgical collaborations. In one example Mascaro gave, a cardiothoracic surgeon, watching in first person as an interventional cardiologist performed a surgery, noticed a shadow on the X-Ray that the operating surgeon didn’t catch.

“He was able to take that image, blow it up, and send it back to the OR,” Mascaro said. “These two colleagues were able to collaborate on the case, and the surgeon doing the work had a perspective he might not have had.”

Gemini, on the other hand, is mostly being deployed in Canada at present, where there is both a large rural population and a single-payer health system.

“We just started to go to Canada and to countries right now where it is a single payer environment,” Mascaro said. “And the reason is that they understand from a value perspective what our technology can do for them. Because they spend 30 to 80 million dollars per province transporting patients for care. … With technology like ours, they can potentially reduce that transport need by close to 70 percent, so you can imagine dollar-wise what that means to them. And they can deliver potentially better quality of care in these remote or rural areas.”

The company has been working to improve the platform’s picture quality, battery life, and user-friendliness. So although it’s built on Google Glass, the platform is more advanced than the 2014 consumer model most people are familiar with.

“I think one of the things that we’ve done very well is, between what we’ve been able to do with the hardware and the software — with the wearable, on the equipment, on our platform, on the compression algorithms — we’ve created a very true realtime virtual telepresence solution which then allows a low barrier entry,” Mascaro said, adding that their goal is to be usable by nurses and doctors who aren’t especially tech-savvy.

Hodei Technologies wants to see the use of their Glass-based telemedicine platform extend from covering rural areas to a range of other use cases.

“A remote rural care isn’t always the wilds of Appalachia or the southwest or northern Canada,” Mascaro said. “You could think about using it in prisons, longterm care facilities, and even home care eventually, where the spouse is now the caregiver, for everything from Alzheimers to wound care, you name it.”