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Futuristic four eyes better than two for QM medics

Barts first medical school in country to use Google glass in medical teaching

Queen Mary is set to be the first University in the UK to use Google Glass technology for teaching medical students. The initiative to introduce the exciting technology at Barts Medical School follows the use of Google Glass by Virtual Medics, a group of consultant surgeons at Barts Health NHS Trust and staff at the medical school, as well as medical students at QM, who used the device to film a surgical procedure in what was the UK’s first global live-streamed surgical teaching. 13000 people across 115 countries viewed the session, which saw a surgeon remove cancer ridden tissue from a 78 year old man.

Google Glass, originally launched in April 2013 for a limited period in the US, before going on sale to the public in May 2014, is hands free, wearable technology, with an optical head mounted display, developed by Google. The technology, which clips onto various pairs of spectacle frames, allows users to do a variety of activities from scrolling the internet, watching and filming videos, to playing chess. The device is voice-controlled and Google are understood to be formulating further ways to integrate the technology into daily life.

Barts is currently using the device for surgical teachings, allowing students to follow along from the classroom as well as from their phones and laptops. Students can also interact with the surgeon performing the procedure, to ask questions during the operation. Barts is hoping to roll out further usage of the technology to other modules and year groups taking a medicine degree.

Google kindly offered The Print a chance to try out Google Glass in their Kings Cross Glass Basecamp, so Victoria Adams went to check it out:

It was very clear from the very start to see how these are going to be a massive asset to education. If, like me, you are a glasses wearer, you sit the Glass on the top of your frames and adjust until you can see the four squares of the screen in your right eye. To begin using the glass, you simply tap the side of the frame and your can begin the experience of hands-free, somewhat life changing, technology. Everything from thereon in is voice-controlled, from surfing the internet, to taking photos, video recording to jotting down notes – all hands-free. For those people concerned about eye strain, the screen disappears automatically when not in use.

Developers at Google revealed that world leading medical professionals have been developing their own apps to accompany the Google Glass, proving further medical and surgical usage even more viable. Apps that allow the student or doctor to scroll through symptoms and solutions at a faster pace means solving the medical issue far more efficiently and effectively than scrolling through patient notes and medical books.

The cost – £1000 per unit, excluding the normal wearing glasses – may raise some eyebrows, but in comparison to the costs per medical student in attending surgery, the cost of a sterilisation gown, gloves and hat per session, alongside the cost of biologically cleaning the scrubs, comes to a similar price. Costs aside, the reduced risk in removing additional persons from the operating theatre is arguably somewhat priceless.

Thuva Amutham, final year Barts medical student who accompanied me to Glass Basecamp, commented:

“Medicine has always lagged behind in catching up with technology, it’s about time we caught up. I believe it is inevitable technology and we have too much to gain from not utilising it to its full potential, with the interest of our patients at heart.”

After experiencing the Glass first hand he said: “Google Glass has revolutionised medical education. We have moved from an era of three or four students trying to get a glimpse of what the surgeon is doing without contaminating the environment to being able to sit at a desk and have the best view as well as narration.”

“As a generation at the frontline of interactive technology, it is our responsibility to play our part in this revolution and empower the patient. Records of the stream with narration and discussions with students could replace books. How better to learn than from watching and experience?”

Thuva weighed in on where else Google Glass could be used in medicine:

“Students sometimes book patients in when it is not an emergency or review patients on wards. They then report back to a supervisor on what their findings are and a possible diagnosis. The consultations are rarely watched as the doctor is usually busy attending to other patients or jobs. If the doctor can watch the consultation on his Glass and do the other job he’d get a fuller picture than the report of the medical student. That’s not to say it is not double checked currently, but it may save some time.”

With the success of Google Glass implementation at Queen Mary, other Universities across the country, including Kings College and the University of Edinburgh, are looking to follow suit.

To find out more information about the initiative, visit https://glassmedics.org/

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