UC Irvine is the first medical school to add Google Glass to its curriculum

Above: Dr. Warren Wiechmann, head of the Google Glass program at UC Irvine School of Medicine

Google Glass is going to medical school.

On Thursday, the University of California at Irvine (UCI) School of Medicine announced that it is integrating the already-iconic wearable into its four-year curriculum for medical students — the first medical school to do so.

Glass has seen its strongest professional reception in medicine, with a variety of pilot programs in hospitals, operating rooms, and other parts of medical life.

“It’s way too early to tell” if Glass will become standard in medical schools, Dr. Jennifer Joe told us, “but a lot of people [in medical education] are interested.”

She heads up MedTech Boston, a non-profit organization that has been conducting projects and competitions involving medical uses of Glass.

Joe noted a surprising fact: Medical schools in the U.S. are generally slow to adopt new technologies, and perhaps “only half require students to use a laptop or tablet.”

But, she added, if Glass did get widely adopted — and was used for collecting data as well as video — “it would dramatically change medical education.” Imagine an attending physician seeing what you saw during a simulation, Joe said, and guiding you through the procedure using Glass.

Initially, ten pairs will distributed at UC Irvine this month to third- and fourth-year students in the operating room and emergency room departments. The school is working with an Austin-based company, Pristine, and Google is not currently involved.

In August, another 20 to 30 pairs will go to first- and second-year students, for use in anatomy labs, the medical simulation center, the ultrasound institute, and the Clinical Skills Center. The devices will also be used for basic science lectures, where patient-physician encounters about specific diseases will be transmitted in real time over 16 miles between the medical center and a lecture hall.

And an unusual point-of-view will be added to Glass’ growing medical repertoire: the patient’s.

“That’s one of the uses I’m most excited about,” said Dr. Warren Wiechmann, assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine at the UCI medical school and head of the Glass program there.

The school’s curriculum includes mock sessions between students and patient actors, which are recorded by several cameras in the room that can “show only gross movements,” he said, “like whether the student is facing the patient, unconscious eye rolls [from the student doctor], head rolls.”

With the patient actor wearing Glass, faculty outside the room can see the video feed from the patient’s point-of-view in real-time, and the student can watch the recording later.

Right now, Wiechmann said, the video/audio and communication capabilities of Glass are the primary functions being used by the school, but he looks forward to incorporating data – calling up a patient’s electronic health record, for instance.


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