DETROIT — Doctors with the Head and Neck Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center are using Google Glass to enhance communication following a patient’s surgery.
Google Glass is the search giant’s hands-free computer worn as a partial eyeglass lens on the right eye. The device combines a processing unit with a display screen, touchpad, high-definition camera and wireless connectivity. Google Glass is controlled by a combination of voice commands, head tilts and touch.
Karmanos, in partnership with Wayne State University School of Medicine, has purchased two of the $1,500 Google Glass devices for a study involving surgery where transplanted tissue must be monitored continuously to ensure good patient outcomes, as well as for other areas of patient care. Karmanos is among the first medical centers in the world to use Google Glass to disseminate patient information among medical staff.
Doctors will use the device on Karmanos’ inpatient unit and in the Intensive Care Unit.
The focus of the pilot study will test various areas of communication involving microvascular free tissue transfer surgeries conducted by Naweed Raza, M.D., assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Karmanos and Wayne State’s School of Medicine. These surgeries entail the transfer of tissue, also called a “flap,” for reconstruction within the patient being treated for head and neck cancer. In the early, postoperative period, blood supply to the flap can be tenuous and must be closely monitored.
For the first 48 hours after surgery, nursing is required to check the flap every hour and physicians are required to check it every four hours. Any changes in flap status must be immediately noted since survival of the flap after an initial failure is much higher the sooner it is detected.
“We plan on utilizing Google Glass to transmit and record the status of the flap between resident physicians and their supervising physicians,” said Sagar Patel, M.D., resident with the Head and Neck Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos.
Doctors will also use Google Glass to allow residents to transmit patient information during transition of care.
“Instead of transmitting this data verbally over the phone, an attempt to visually transmit data ‘face to face’ will occur,” Patel said. “It is our hypothesis that this in-person communication will lead to greater surgical success and will improve communication between medical staff. We are extremely excited to use this new technology for the benefit of our patients.”
Google Glass is particularly helpful in the kinds of surgery that the Head and Neck Oncology Multidisciplinary Team conduct at Karmanos, Patel said. Many surgeries are reconstructive in nature and may involve the patient’s tongue, jaw, scalp, palate, cheek or in some cases, even their full face. While a free tissue transfer provides what Dr. Patel describes as “great” reconstructive results, communication between the medical staff is crucial in monitoring how well the patient is doing immediately after surgery.
He added that the study will be ongoing, considering that Google Glass is so new. Patel and his team plan to document various aspects of the technology, including ease of use, its use in a variety of applications and clinical utility. They plan to publish their findings in medical literature.
Patel’s colleagues testing Google Glass include Michael Carron, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology at Karmanos and the Wayne State School of Medicine; Ho-Sheng Lin, M.D., leader of the Head and Neck Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos and professor of Otolaryngology at tje Wayne State School of Medicine; Dr. Raza; Mahdi Shkoukani, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Karmanos and the Wayne State School of Medicine; Peter Svider, M.D., resident of Otolaryngology at Karmanos and the Wayne State School of Medicine; and Giancarlo Zuliani, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Karmanos and the Wayne State School of Medicine.
“We really are pioneers, using this new technology, and we expect to encounter challenges and discover novel applications for the device during our pilot phase,” Dr. Patel said. “We will end ‘testing’ when we determine that a particular aspect of our pilot study has enough of a significant utility to be used on a larger scale.”