Google Glass and Patient Engagement – Is This a Match Made in Heaven?

Google Glass in Patient EngagementBeing a medical professional, Glass Explorer and the co-founder of a healthcare data company, when a new technology is launched I immediately think…  How can we use this to improve healthcare? How can we use the data and the information the technology enables to better connect the healthcare community?

The launch of Google Glass had myself – and many other healthcare professionals – asking just these questions. It’s been exciting to watch the uptake of Glass in the medical space. Despite the privacy concerns people are exploring ways to use the technology to improve healthcare.

I’m a true believer in the value of patient engagement and have participated in research asking healthcare professionals and health consumers to share their feedback on the current state of patient engagement. The findings have been eye opening and I think point to the need for significant change in the way healthcare is provided. Technology will certainly play a role in these changes, as will digital natives who can easily envision a tech enabled future.

Industry work in the patient engagement space naturally lead me to wonder how Google Glass could be used as a tool to enhance engagement. As I thought about the feedback shared by the Millennials and Gen Xers, I put together a list of ways I could see Glass enhancing patient engagement.

-Glass providing a take home video record for new information and procedures learned during the patient’s office visit

During office visits patients are frequently given a great deal of information in a short period of time. It can be challenging to remember everything that was discussed and be able to duplicate what was learned when back home and doing things for themselves.

Why not use Glass to record the learning segments of the office visit. This can provide patients with a video recording to watch when needed and ensure they can duplicate the dressing change, dosing schedule or follow the post op instructions that were provided by their healthcare team.

I recently read an article that highlights the need for educational follow-up tools like a Glass recording: Fundamental Facts About Patient Education.

-Glass and Google+ Hangouts used for virtual office visits, check in sessions and progress updates

Our research with Millennials and Gen Xers told us loud and clear that these health consumers are looking for an alternative to the standard office visit. They want fast and easy online options to get questions answered, discuss lab and test results and reorder medications. They made it very clear that phone calls and office visits were not solutions that met their needs.

You can read more from these health consumers at: Do Gen Xers and Millennials hold the key to success for the Affordable Care Act?

-Glass as a diary tool for health related activities

Want to really understand how everyday activities impact your health? Write them down, use a diary and track your activity. Using Glass as a tool to quickly and easily record blood sugars, food intake, weight, wound healing progress, events during a cardiac incident or any health related metric can be an important tool in managing – and improving – patient outcomes.

Face time with the patient’s healthcare team is limited; understanding what’s happening while the patient is off living their life can be key to managing chronic diseases and achieving health goals. Using Glass as a very simple, minimal effort way to track health related activities can provide a wealth of information to be used in managing a patient’s health.

Tracking How Much Food We Eat Can Be a Challenge offers interesting insights on the challenges of tracking health information and tools scientists are exploring to solve the problem. Let’s add Glass to the list of tools.

-Glass as a reminder tool to reinforce desired health behaviors

People forget things, patients forget things; the best plans can veer off course. How can health care professionals support patient adherence to treatment plans? Stay in touch and schedule reminders. Glass is a perfect answer. We already mentioned Google+ Hangouts, now add reminders via Glass. Alert the patient when medications should be taken, blood press checked, to fit in their daily exercise or any variety of needed health messages designed to drive desired health behaviors.

Using reminders and alerts is not new to healthcare and there seems to be a growing body of evidence supporting this approach. The recent article Cell-Phone Program Improves Diabetes Outcomes, Saves Costs highlights the benefits of reminder programs.

Certainly some of these things could be accomplished with other devices but what I like about the Glass option is the ‘only there when needed’ aspect of the technology. When used correctly, Glass is there in the background, waiting to be needed and activated. When I think about how we make engagement efforts work, I think of being available when the patient needs support. Glass can be a good fit for engagement efforts, allowing the patient’s healthcare team to be there and ready to offer support – at the right times.

What do you think of Glass as a patient engagement tool? For the moment let’s put HIPAA issues and cost aside and simply think of the technology and what it could do to facilitate patient engagement and improve health outcomes.

A version of this post originally appeared on CROWDTalk.

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