Medicine has embraced digital technology in many ways. Wearable technology is being applied in healthcare in new and exciting ways. Smart glasses are a form of wearable technology that combines the power of computers with an everyday accessory —eyeglasses.
Smart glasses have been used in security, surveillance, and navigation. But perhaps their greatest good is their use in medical care. Scientists are constantly exploring new ways to deploy this versatile technological device.
Medical uses of smart glasses
Although smartglasses are yet to become mainstream in medical care, they have already been proven to be useful in many ways. Some of the ways smartglasses are being used in medical practice include:
- Hands-free photo and video recording and documentation: Smartglasses can help clinicians capture, record, and store critical findings during a consultation without resorting to manual data entry or using a scribe.
- Electronic Medical Record management: Smartglasses can convert records directly to electronic formats. This saves time that would have been used to convert records from physical files to electronic formats.
- Analysis of rapid diagnostic tests: Using artificial technology, clinicians can analyze rapid tests and get the best information to care for their patients.
- Medical education: Even when it is impossible for medical staff and students to be present in person, smartglasses can record sessions. These sessions can be used in training personnel later.
- Live broadcasting: Health personnel can live stream medical procedures to allow others to learn. This is particularly useful during surgeries.
- Telemedicine: Using the live streaming functions, a doctor can collaborate with colleagues remotely during a procedure and ensure the patient receives optimal care.
Despite these versatile applications, smartglasses have not been widely adopted by medical professionals. A study by Mitrasinovic et al. concluded that smartglasses needed to be tailored to the needs of different medical and surgical specialties. They also called for further studies in that regard.
The use of smartglasses in medicine is likely to keep growing. There is a lot of potential for using smart glasses in subspecialties like dermatology, interventional radiology, and all forms of microsurgery.
In dermatology, smartglasses can provide diagnostic assistance allowing the wearer to compare skin lesions with encyclopedic records. This will improve accuracy and save time for dermatologists.
In interventional radiology, smartglasses are already being used to assist surgical procedures. Their use could easily become mainstream. Early comments on their use say they can improve patient safety, operator comfort, and procedure efficiency.
All forms of microsurgery are also likely to benefit from the use of smartglasses. A hands-free record of the procedures can allow surgeons to review processes and improve their technique for various surgeries easily.
Despite these applications and potential gains, smartglasses have not been widely embraced by the medical community yet. Some of the contributing factors have been the high price points and the insensitivity of the product to users’ needs. However, many companies are working tirelessly to change that.
Companies working on smart glasses
There are at least 113 companies that manufacture smart glasses. Some of the most interesting are:
- Google: Google’s smart glasses created a lot of awareness for the possibilities of pairing artificial intelligence with eyewear. Although its commercial smartglasses never became popular with consumers due to privacy concerns, they are making inroads in the medical field. Their newer editions are targeting hospitals.
- North: North provides eyewear solutions. They manufacture smart glasses that have special features such as voice-to-text, voice assistant notifications, and navigation. Their offerings are compatible with iOS and Andriod.
- Vuzix: Vuzix manufactures smartglasses that are designed for remote support and teleconference uses. Its products have been used for field service, logistics, and telemedicine.
- Avegant: Avegant is an American company developing software and hardware in the area of light field technology. Their products have been used in communication and healthcare.
- Rods & Cones: Rods & Cones is a modern staple that develops remote surgical assistance solutions. They aim to connect medical professionals globally, ensuring everyone can access the best medical information wherever they are.
What does the future hold for smart glasses in medicine?
The future for the use of smartglasses in medicine is bright. Despite the failures of Google Glass and the reservations expressed by some professionals about smartglass adoption, experts agree that smartglasses are the future.
Companies like Facebook, Vuzix, Microsoft, Lenovo, and Apple are working hard to produce a new generation of smartglasses that meet consumer needs and avoid past problems.
Many experts say widespread adoption of smartglasses is five to ten years away. However, global interconnections and the acceleration of medical information sharing means there will continue to be demand for easier ways to communicate medical information and facilitate medical education.
Smart glasses are an important tool in meeting that demand. Even though they aren’t widely adopted now, with more innovation and customer-centric options, smart glasses, AR headsets, and other heads-up displays can make an incredible difference in medical practice in the days to come.