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Karmanos Cancer Center specialists test Google Glass to promote better patient care

Doctors with the Head and Neck Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center are using Google Glass to enhance communication between resident physicians and their supervisors following a patient’s surgery.

Google Glass is a hands-free, eyewear device that facilitates communication and interaction within the wearer’s surroundings. The device combines a computerized central processing unit with a display screen, touchpad, high-definition camera and wireless connectivity. Google Glass is fully controlled by a combination of voice commands, head tilts and touch.

Karmanos, in partnership with Wayne State University (WSU SOM), has purchased two Google Glass devices for a project 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 project will test various areas of communication involving microvascular free tissue transfer surgeries conducted by Naweed Raza, M.D., FRCS(C), assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Karmanos and WSU SOM. 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. Since several different residents may be involved in checking the flap over the 48-hour time period, correct transfer of patient information among residents is critical for patient recovery. 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,” Dr. 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, said Dr. Patel. 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.

“Detailed and visual patient transfer information between nursing and the physician teams is especially important since these patients are often very sick at the time of surgery, given that their cancer often prevents them from receiving adequate nutrition and hydration,” Dr. Patel said. “In addition to that, these patients undergo long and extensive surgeries. Having the highest-quality communication is an invaluable asset in a patient’s post-operative care.”

He added that the project will be ongoing, considering that Google Glass is so new. Dr. 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. Dr. Patel’s colleagues using Google Glass include Michael Carron, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology at Karmanos and WSU SOM; Ho-Sheng Lin, M.D., leader of the Head and Neck Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos and professor of Otolaryngology at WSU SOM; Dr. Raza; Mahdi Shkoukani, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Karmanos and WSU SOM; Peter Svider, M.D., resident of Otolaryngology at Karmanos and WSU SOM; and Giancarlo Zuliani, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Karmanos and WSU SOM.

“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 project has enough of a significant utility to be used on a larger scale.”
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