Physician Advocates Medical Innovation with Google Glass

Christian Assad, M.D., was one of 8,000 people selected nationwide by Google to wear and test its new Google Glass wearable computer. 

July 24, 2013 | UAMS cardiologist Christian Assad, M.D., wants to start a revolution in medicine, and he wants to do it with something right in front of his eyes — Google Glass.

Assad, an interventional cardiology fellow in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine, was one of 8,000 people selected nationwide by Google to wear and test the new device. He started using it in June.

Similar to a pair of glasses, Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display, usually positioned just above the user’s direct sight line. To see the screen, which is larger in the user’s field of vision than its actual size because of its close proximity, all the user has to do is glance slightly upward. It also responds to touches to the device itself and even voice commands.

Google Glass can take a video of what you’re seeing, create a live feed of the same, display information and access the Internet through a Wi-Fi connection.

“I think anybody who uses them will discover a potential use for them,” Assad said. “That’s the beauty of it. Just imagine it’s a robotic eye. You see two realities — your regular life, then the augmented reality. It’s that regular vision plus information.”

Before he was a physician or even a medical student, Assad had a passion for technology. He equally is passionate about medicine, and Google Glass has given him a great opportunity to combine both.

Assad, along with his team (evermed), have started developing an application CPR Glass, to work with Google Glass and Android devices to assist individuals in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on an individual in cardiac arrest. A team of software providers and developers, evermed is working to offer effective, efficient, open-source care solutions to health care providers and consumers.

 “CPR Glass helps and empowers the individual to feel more comfortable in a situation like that,” he said.

Once fully developed, Assad envisions the application will help a Google Glass user check a person’s pulse and blood flow, will call 911 to let emergency services know someone is in cardiac arrest and report the location, and then, using music similar to that proposed by the American Heart Association video, deliver chest compressions.

Assad said he also has merged CPR Glass with an app called AED4.US, created by Lucien Engelen, which is the largest crowdsourced database of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). This way CPRGlass can help a user locate the nearest AED to help someone in cardiac arrest. Engelen is director of the REshape & Innovation Center of Radboud at the University Nijmegen Medic Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

“My vision is if someone else has that application, they could get an alarm telling them to take the AED to someone who needs help,” Assad said. “It could improve survival by about three times. It’s working together through things like crowdsourcing to help each other out and be part of something great. It’s about empowering people to do great things.”

“What is your smart phone without its applications? It’s nothing,” Assad said. “It’s just a phone. When you get people developing the apps that we use now, that’s when it gets interesting. That’s Glass. The more we develop apps and the more interesting they are, the more useful it will get and people will say, ‘Wow, I want one.’”

Assad foresees a variety of Glass applications for medical education and for use in medical practice.

A medical student or physician assistant wearing Google Glass could be guided through a medical procedure by an experienced physician who is seeing exactly what they are seeing through a real-time Internet connection.

Another physician who is wearing Google Glass could look at a patient, identify the person with facial recognition software, and then see on the Glass display the patient’s electronic medical record and what happened on their last visit. That could speed up treatment and improve accuracy. Some people are using Google Glass to guide exercise, like an application called GlassFit by Noble Ackerson. Assad is working with Ackerson to apply a similar concept, but in cardiac rehabilitation.

As for himself, he tries to wear his Google Glass device when going through his day at UAMS.

“I walk around the hospital with them on, not to show them off,” Assad said. “Yes, it looks weird, but I do it because once I get someone in the medical field to try them, and you explain it to them a little, ideas start appearing. If you want to fix health care, then you need to use the innovation and creativity of your staff.”

Combining Google Glass with the ongoing expansion of telemedicine and other new technologies has the potential to make an enormous, positive impact on health care.

“The more I use it the more exciting it gets,” he said.


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