Health IT Then and Now: Is Google Glass Back For Keeps?

Back in 2013, everybody was talking about Google Glass, the ungainly smart eyeglasses many thought would revolutionize wearable computing. Just how hot were they? Here’s a sampling of the buzz around Glass over less than two years on this site:

  • In June 2013, a physician shared enthusiastically about experience wearing and streaming from Google Glass during surgery.
  • The same month, our fearless leader John Lynn wrote a blog item’s describing how Glass could offer a service allowing emergency 911 operators to share information with the public.
  • In July, lucky tester Jon Fox, MD, raved about the potential for Google Glass as a tool for navigating EMR data.
  • In March 2014 John (who actually owned a pair) predicted that Glass would “find some incredibly powerful uses and become an indispensable part of many hospital workflows.”
  • John followed up in May with a post discussing UC Irvine’s rollout of Google Glass to medical students.
  • Next, in June, I posted a piece about DrChrono’s app allowing doctors to use Glass store patient data on a cloud-based storage and collaboration site.
  • Then, in July, John followed up with a write up on another Glass-based EHR app, miGlass, running within the iPatientCare EHR.

Not long after these pieces were published, though, the Glass phenomenon dropped out of the headlines.

That seemed to be about it until this week when Google announced the launch of Glass Enterprise Edition 2. Apparently, the Enterprise Edition Glass technology has been out there in use in several verticals, including logistics, manufacturing and field services, but wasn’t generating a high profile.

Enterprise Edition 2 is built on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, which includes an artificial intelligence engine. The updated Glass platform is built on Android and supports Android Enterprise Mobile Device Management. According to Google, the updated system also features better camera performance, a USB-C port supporting faster charging and longer overall battery life.

According to Google, workers are using glass to access checklists, view instructions, send inspection photos and videos and more. Among the beneficiaries of this technology has been Sutter Health, which is using Glass to support more than 100 physicians using embedded technology developed by Augmedix, according to an article appearing in mHealth Intelligence.

Albert Chan, MD, chief of digital patient experience at Sutter, told the site that one of the most popular uses for the smart glasses includes translating patient encounters into the medical record. Dr. Chan said that this is done either by the doctors themselves or by scribes. He hopes that someday, the Glass platform will integrate machine learning technology to help physicians perform routine tasks such as managing email and scheduling.

Given how little attention Glass has gotten in healthcare recently, I made the mistake of thinking that had fallen off the map entirely, but I was wrong of course. Some of the functions Google is promoting as particularly appropriate, such as managing checklists and sharing videos, still seem very right for healthcare use, but it doesn’t seem that using it as an interface for data-to-day EHR interactions ever took off. I’ve also heard little else about the use of Glass in surgical settings, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to happen on a small scale.

All things being equal, I’d probably have ended this piece with the observation that Glass was indeed overhyped healthcare platform. However, with the addition of AI functions, we may end up interacting with data in ways that are amenable to this platform. Let’s see what happens during the next year or two.

HIT Then and Now takes look at how hot technologies have panned out in the health IT world over time. To suggest a topic, write to me at

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.