Google Glass-equipped ambulances roll out in Chicago

By Jonah Comstock
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Google GlassAfter two and half years of negotiations with Google and with the Illinois Department of Public Health, a Skokie, Illinois ambulance service is about to roll out a program to give doctors live access to paramedics' points of view via Google Glass.

The Medical Express Ambulance Service, or MedEx for short, will use software developed by Pristine and will work with The Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago at first, but plans to expand into additional hospitals in the future.

"At MedEx, we work hard to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to equipping our ambulances with the latest innovations,” MedEx CEO Lauren Rubinson-Morris told ChicagoInno. “Google Glass is particularly helpful in medical situations involving health risks that require visual assessment for treatment, such as trauma, burns, cardiac arrest, strokes and seizures.”

According to Crain's Chicago Business, Rubinson-Morris started talking to Google about this implementation in mid-2012 and got hooked up with Pristine somewhere along the way. Last April she sought approval from the department of public health; that came through in November. The ambulance company spent $250,000 developing the service, while also adding 10 new critical care ambulances designed to serve as WiFi hotspots to support the Google Glass technology.

The technology will allow paramedics to stream live first-person videos to the hospitals they're headed to, which helps doctors to prepare adequately for incoming patients.

"When you turn that camera on, it enables much better care of the patient," Dr. Eddie Markul, medical director of emergency medical services at Advocate, told Crain's. "The visual answers so many questions instantly, as opposed to hearing somebody describing the patient.”

Pristine isn't the only company looking at ambulances as a major use case for Glass. Just last month, CrowdOptic showed off similar technology it's been developing since last summer with ProTransport-1, a San Francisco Bay area ambulance company.

"CrowdOptic's 'see-what-I-see' technology allows paramedics and nurses on our ambulances to broadcast the live view of complex cases to medical teams at the hospital," Glenn Leland, Chief Strategy Officer for ProTransport-1 said in a statement last summer. "We additionally envision a variety of dispatch, navigation, documentation and operational processes will migrate to CrowdOptic and Google Glass over time."

CrowdOptic SVP Jim Kovach said the ProTransport-1 deployment is already active, but the company is not an emergency responder like MedEx; instead they transfer patients from one hospital to another, and so Glass is mainly used for documentation. But emergency response is very much in CrowdOptic's future plans.

Kovach laid out two big opportunities. One is in the response to stroke, which he thinks Google Glass could be instrumental in improving, because quick response is so important for stroke patients. The other area is actually having EMTs provide care in patients's homes in cases where they don't need to bring them in, with a doctor advising the first responder remotely via Google Glass.