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Friday 22 August 2014

Surgeons use Google Glass in ops

Published 08/05/2014 | 13:42

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Surgeon David Issac wearing Google Glass during an operation (South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust /PA)
David Isaac, an orthopaedic surgeon at Torbay Hospital, became the first surgeon in the UK to use Google Glass through a live operation (South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust /PA)

Surgeons have become the first in the UK to use Google Glass in the operating theatre, according to a hospital.

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The voice-activated glasses, which feature a tiny display above the wearer's eyes, can record video and live-stream operations via the internet.

David Isaac, an orthopaedic surgeon at Torbay Hospital in Devon, became the first surgeon in the UK to use Google Glass through a live operation.

Google Glass has since been used by surgeons across the hospital, including in a variety of orthopaedic procedures and ear, nose and throat operations.

Torbay Hospital says the technology has "huge potential" for medical education, with students in a lecture theatre able to see and hear from the surgeon's viewpoint.

"Two of the key issues we have had to address whilst using Google Glass in the operating theatre are patient confidentiality and privacy," Mr Isaac said.

"We take these matters very seriously and have been using the past six months as a trial period to address the issues whilst still aiming to get the very best from the potential that this technology has to offer within surgical education.

"We have been investigating the ability to stream and store video to a secure network that can only be accessed by those with the relevant consent, and whilst we can't currently use Google Glass to connect and stream to the internet, we are just about to start live-streaming to junior doctors and medical students within the Trust."

Dr George Brighton, core surgical trainee and app inventor at the hospital, managed to acquire a set of Google Glass last November, before their official launch in the UK.

Google Glass enables users to access functions including maps, voice search, video calls and email, calendar and photos hands-free.

"The device itself is effectively a smartphone, head-mounted video camera and computer rolled into one, with an eye-level screen," Dr Brighton said.

"What's exciting for medical education is that it allows surgeons to record and share their direct view of the surgical field. This gives huge potential for mentoring and conferencing.

"If, for example, you were performing a rare or complex procedure, you could seek the advice of experts anywhere across the globe whilst operating.

"The device would also enable consultants to mentor junior surgeons through a procedure, extending their hands-on learning. Or procedures could be streamed to lecture theatres full of students, giving them virtually the full field of vision the surgeon sees."

Before using Google Glass in theatre, surgeons talk to their patients about the project and how footage will be used. They must give their signed consent before any filming.

Surgeons are currently exploring a number of technical challenges, such as how to be explicit about when the camera is filming and when it is switched off.

They are also working out how to upload footage of longer procedures without crashing the computer's memory.

It has also taken practice to perfect the angle and lighting to ensure any footage is a useful learning tool, the hospital says.

Dr Kerri Jones, consultant anaesthetist and associate medical director for innovation and improvement at the hospital, said: "The trialling of Google Glass here is a perfect example of how innovative practitioners such as George are being encouraged to look at leading-edge technologies and assess whether we can use them in a way which would add to the quality of care for people in our area."

The use of Google Glass was also welcomed by Dr Jo Roberts, lead for innovation at South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group.

"The ground-breaking work being undertaken at Torbay Hospital is fantastic for patients and the health community, and we very much welcome the ongoing search for innovative ways of delivering care," Dr Roberts said.

"It's part of a bigger approach at Torbay Hospital in particular, and the system in general, and its potential to use Google Glass for sharing learning and insight is massive. We in the health community will continue to look at new, innovative ways of improving patient care."

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