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ETSU professor uses scarce, high-tech tool in medical education

Google Glass

JOHNSON CITY (July 10, 2013) – Google chose a small number of “explorers” to test the next wave in computers, and one of those beta testers is a professor at East Tennessee State University who is incorporating Google Glass into medical education at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine. Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical, head-mounted display.

Dr. Martin Olsen, director of the medical residency program in the ETSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is already using Google Glass in conjunction with Surgical Chloe™ – a full-body, high-fidelity surgical simulator developed via a partnership between ETSU and Gaumard Scientific – to teach medical residents and students at the College of Medicine. Olsen is one of only 8,000 people worldwide selected for a program Google calls “Google Glass explorers.” He traveled in June to New York City to buy this tiny computer that looks like high-tech eyeglasses. The device isn’t expected to be made available to the public until 2014.

Olsen said there are other physicians who are using Google Glass, but as far as he knows, ETSU is one of the very few institutions where the device is being used for medical education.

“I think Google Glass will be very important in the future of medical education and health care delivery,” Olsen said, “and it’s exciting that we have this kind of technology at ETSU and the Quillen College of Medicine.”

Google held an open contest where participants could make a case, through a short essay, why they should become a Google Glass explorer. Olsen is well versed in medical terminology and technique, but he turned to the language of poetry to convince Google that its wearable computer could enhance the training of doctors – especially through the hands-free ability to make video recordings of simulated surgical procedures and interactions with patients. The device is operated by user voice commands such as “OK, Glass, record a video” and “OK, Glass, take a picture,” or by touching a pad on the side of the unit.

Essays could be no more than 50 words or 140 characters and must include the hashtag #ifihadglass. Olsen called his winning entry “bad poetry,” but Google judged otherwise. He wrote:

Med students in the nation

Would get great surgical simulation

Improvements in patient care

Could be found in hospitals everywhere

All this could come to pass

#ifihadglass

Olsen said Google Glass dovetails seamlessly in teaching with Surgical Chloe™, a surgical simulation manikin that was developed and created by Olsen and other ETSU faculty members. Gaumard Scientific, which specializes in manufacturing simulators for health education, purchased the rights from ETSU to mass produce the Chloe prototype and is marketing Surgical Chloe™ to teaching facilities around the world.

Gaumard Scientific was so enthusiastic about the possibilities of pairing Google Glass with Surgical Chloe™ and its other simulators that the company supported Olsen’s efforts to be part of the explorer program.

Olsen said Google Glass became a vital part of learning in its first week of use alongside Surgical Chloe™ in the ETSU Human Patient Simulation Lab at Quillen. The physician maintains a Google+ site – tagged Chloe Glass – where he posts narrative and video updates that illustrate this new technology and its influence on medical education. Residents in the OB/GYN program have worn the glasses to record video during a simulated surgery, while Olsen and other faculty members can monitor that surgery in real-time from a remote monitor.

“This allows medical education to be more learner-driven,” Olsen said. “We know now that medical students and residents learn better by doing and by hands-on practicing. By learning on the simulator and recording a video from the user’s perspective, Google Glass makes for a wonderful self-evaluation tool. The learners can watch the surgical procedure they performed, and, if they made a mistake, see that mistake and correct it next time.

“When we put Google Glass on Chloe, the video is shot from a patient’s-eye perspective, and the learners saw after the patient encounter that their eye contact with the patient was not what it should be. The next day, they self-corrected. Their eye contact was exactly what it needed to be.”