Why it’s time to start exploring applications for Google Glass in Aged Care

Much discussion is being had around the potential uses for Google Glass in healthcare, but the majority of this to date has focused on the acute care settings and hospitals in particular.

I’m of the opinion that Glass has enormous potential to be incorporated into aged care service delivery models, and the operators I have spoken to to date are equally keen to explore this further (pardon the Glass-wearer pun!)

Workforce availability and funding constraints have seen more and more residential aged care facilities in Australia shift to models of care which utilise personal care workers in addition to, and sometimes largely in place of, registered nurses. It is becoming increasingly common, particularly overnight, for there to be no registered nurse physically on the premises of the facility, but supporting the personal care workers via phone contact.

So many patient care decisions are based on visualisation – the patient just not ‘looking right’ often provides an early indication that some kind of adverse health event is imminent, particularly in the case of the increasing number of patients with dementia or Alzheimers, conditions which can severely impact ability to verbalise about their early warning signs.

Personal care workers using Glass would have the ability to send the registered nurse supporting them in care delivery videos or pictures of the patient they were concerned about, allowing much more informed decisions to be made without the need for them to attend the facility physically. It was disappointing to see video calls removed from Glass in the recent software updates as this is a perfect application for them, but I do agree that the existing version was buggy and inconsistent. With the healthcare Explorer community leading the cries for its reinstallation, and a great business case for applications across the health sector, I’m confident that we will see a new and improved version reinstated either by Google or a 3rd party developer in the near future.

The core functionalities of Glass, ie the ability to access information at eye level hands free, and the ability to record images and video hands free also deliver a lot of potential applications in the aged care sector. I can see scenarios where images of wounds are photographed and sent to care plans, allowing easy monitoring of healing progress. Equally, accessing details of care plans via Glass without having to carry around heavy paper folders, or finding stable places to view tablets or laptops, while keeping both hands free to deliver care delivers obvious benefits.

Glass also provides an interesting consideration in assisting residential care operators manage the workplace health and safety concerns that the workplace delivers. The weight of the medication & treatment trolleys could be reduced by taking away the bulky paper based folders that are still commonly in use, and with Glass being head mounted both hands are kept free to assist patients without having to juggle tablets or laptops.

No doubt the naysayers will be quick to suggest that elderly people are far less likely to accept Glass than their younger counterparts, but those same elderly people have been quick to embrace the benefits that Facebook and Skype deliver in allowing them to maintain family and friendship interactions, and embraced pilots where WiFit has been introduced to their leisure activities – I’m not convinced that they will not see the benefits that Glass can deliver in helping them and their care givers in their mutual quest to maximise their health and well being.

I’m looking forward to talking further with our aged care operators in Australia about how they see Glass delivering value in their facilities, and being part of the development of those solutions.

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