July 25, 2017

Google Glass is back: How Dignity, Sutter, and others are using the revamped—and renamed—wearable

Daily Briefing

Alphabet's research and development company, X, has launched the "Glass Enterprise Edition"—a version of Google Glass revamped for a more specialized clientele: health systems, factories, and other enterprise-focused businesses.

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A failed consumer product

Google—X's sister company under Alphabet—first unveiled Google Glass back in 2012 at Google's I/O conference, Steven Levy writes for Wired. But the glasses failed to catch on among everyday consumers, who said the device was buggy, didn't feel it had a clear function, and expressed concerns about potential privacy violations stemming from the device's recording capacity, according to Astro Teller, who lead's Alphabet's X.  

By 2015, Levy reports, the website for Google Glass had gone dark.

A new home for Glass

But despite consumer discontent with the product, health care organizations, such as Dignity Health and Sutter Health, as well as a variety of manufacturers outside the health care industry had realized Google Glass' potential and begun customizing the Google Glass to meet their specific business needs.

Intrigued by the businesses success, Alphabet in 2014 created a Glass team at X dedicated to turning the original Google Glass into the new and improved Glass Enterprise Edition.

According to Jay Kothari, the Glass project leader at X, the Glass Enterprise Edition is lighter and more "comfortable for long term wear" than the original, with an extended battery life and improved networking capacity. The wearable, which can be adapted to fit prescription frames, is also more durable, enabling the glasses to double as safety glasses that comply with OSHA requirements. It also has a light that glows whenever the glasses' camera is recording, assuaging the privacy concerns with the first edition of the wearable.

According to Levy, X in January 2015 began releasing the Glass Enterprise Edition to companies in industries ranging from health care to tractor assembly, but asked early adopters not to publicize the device until the official announcement last week.

How Glass is being used in health care

With the official unveiling of Glass Enterprise Edition last week, health systems and other companies that adopted the device are sharing their experiences, Kothari wrote in an X blog post.

For instance, doctors at both Dignity Health and Sutter Health and have been using versions of the new Glass that have been customized by one of X's solution partners, Augmedix.

Aiming to make doctor-patient visits more productive, Augmedix created a so-called "remote scribe" application for Glass that livestreams the doctor visit to a scribe offsite  who takes provider notes and, as appropriate, reviews the patient's history to flag pertinent medical history information for the provider. In turn, the physician is free to focus fully on the patient.

Albert Chan of Sutter Health said the Glass has "brought the joys of medicine back to my doctors" because it enables them to return their focus to the patient rather than EHR documentation. He said the device has allowed providers to cut the time they spend working on EHRs by two hours a day.

Separately, Davin Lundquist, chief medical information officer at Dignity, said the customized device has cut down "total time entering data ... from 33 percent of our day to less than 10 percent" while boosting "direct patient interaction ... from 35 percent to 70 percent."

He added, "Glass in an enterprise setting is ... a tool that enhances our ability to perform as professionals." Moreover, Lundquist said his patients are often impressed with the device. "In most cases, my patients feel that it sets me apart as a cutting-edge doctor."

And Ian Shakil, the founder of Augmedix, acknowledged the irony of how Glass' most controversial features—being able to unobtrusively record bystanders, discreetly pulling up external information for real-life interactions—are now some of its most valued features. "When you hear the word Glass, you think dehumanization, social disruption," Shakil said. "We're the opposite—being close to the patient; being able to put your hand on his or her shoulder to comfort them" (Farr and Haselton, CNBC, 7/18; Levy, Wired, 7/18; Kothari blog post, 7/18).

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