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Powerful Potential Medical Applications of Google Glass

By Rex Moore and Max Macaluso – Feb 4, 2014 at 2:30PM

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Pristine is putting Google Glass in operating rooms.

Pristine -- a small start-up based in Austin, Texas -- is showing off the real power and potential of Google (GOOGL -1.02%) Glass. The company is developing apps for Glass that unleash the power of hands-free communication in medical settings. This ranges from streaming, first-person audio and video from a surgeon to medical students in the next room -- or across the globe -- to improving communication between anesthesiologists and their CRNAs.

The Fool's Max Macaluso and Rex Moore caught up with Pristine co-founder Kyle Samani at the recent mHealth Summit near Washington, D.C. In this video, Kyle explains one of his company's two existing Google Glass apps: EyeSight.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Max Macaluso: Can you tell us a little bit about your app?

Kyle Samani: Yeah. We're building two distinct applications for Google Glass, both of which are targeted primarily into the operating rooms; that's surgery, and anesthesia. I'll focus first on the more primary of the two apps. The primary app is called Pristine EyeSight -- like your eyesight, for what you're seeing -- and that's exactly what the app is.

We're using the camera here, and we're actually doing first-person, secure, HIPAA-compliant audio/video streaming off of the Google Glass so you can literally share what you're seeing to any authorized iOS device, Android device, or PC, anywhere in the world, so long as the person receiving the video stream has security privileges to connect with you.

In simple terms, you can think of it like a Skype call, except instead of the laptop facing you, it's now what you're seeing, so it's kind of the opposite of that. Glass is a pretty under-powered device, so we're doing all kinds of things to make the video really work well, and optimize there.

What problems does this solve? You can share what you can see; big deal. Why is that useful?

In surgery, we're billing this as a teaching and training tool. Right now, if you look at modern surgical teaching, it's actually pretty limited. Because the surgical field is such a narrow area and everything is draped off -- you only have so many people with their hands in the surgical field -- it's very hard for surgical residents to actually watch what's happening.

Most ORs will never have more than one, maybe two, surgical residents in an operating room at a time, and even then, they're actually physically slowing down the case and exposing the patient to unnecessary medical risk so that the surgeon can step out of the way and the residents can get into the surgical field.

We solve all these problems by saying, "Now you can see what the surgeon can see." We think first-person video makes sense for people who have these very intricate, meticulous, nuanced hands-on jobs, and surgery is obviously the epitome of that. First-person video we think is very, very compelling for them.

This means, from attending to residents, you could have a room full of residents watching an attending -- and they can be all over the world; they can be in multiple places -- you can have one attending managing two or three residents across operating rooms, and you can even have attendings teaching other attendings.

There's always new medical devices and procedures coming out, and it's actually very common today that attendings will fly to other medical centers to watch a live case. If you think about this, the amount of overhead and complexity and administrative frustration here is pretty significant. We, again, want to automate all of that and help surgeons teach each other, and help propagate knowledge and information faster.

Macaluso: It sounds like this is mostly an educational tool for physicians and medical students?

Samani: For the surgeons, correct. We think first-person video will become one of the defining aspects of all education in the future. If you think about anything that's a hands-on, meticulous job, if the camera angle is from over here, that by definition just doesn't make a lot of sense. If the whole point of the job is to learn how to do this, in a very fine level of detail and precision, you want the camera angle to be this. We think that's going to be really compelling.

Surgery is the obvious spot, but there are a lot of other areas where this is going to be practical, too; pharmacies, labs, any other very sophisticated, nuanced medical things.

The other big use case we're targeting is anesthesia. We're really billing Glass in this case as a communications utility. For folks who aren't super familiar with the modern practice of anesthesia, it's very common that today anesthesiologists will work across multiple operating rooms in real time. They will have what's called a CRNA in each operating room; a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

You have one anesthesiologist commonly responsible for two or three CRNAs, and the anesthesiologist will be going to the post-ICU care unit to manage patients in post-op, they'll be going to the pre-op to help with consults pre-op, and they'll also be coming into the operating rooms to check in on their CRNAs and the cases going on.

What we're doing is putting Glass on the CRNAs in the operating rooms so that the anesthesiologists can literally beam in to their CRNAs, as if they were there, and communicate with them, see the anesthesia monitor, see where the case is going on, have any conversations necessary, make a decision, and proceed.

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Max Macaluso, Ph.D., has no position in any stocks mentioned. Rex Moore owns shares of Google. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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