Health Check: Rhode Island Hospital tests Google Glass

You could call them the Google Glass team at Rhode Island Hospital. It was Dr. Paul Porter's idea.

"I contacted Google," Porter said, "and I was thinking how to apply them to health care."

Porter and his team, Drs. Peter Chai and Roger Wu, both emergency medicine residents at the hospital, got on board and a study was born. It was very limited, involving only dermatologic patients.

They see about 100 of them a month in this busy emergency room.

"The reason we chose dermatology, one was, it is the most visual diagnosis in emergency medicine," Porter said. "And it is safe and dermatology is a competitive specialty. Access to dermatologists in the state can be an issue."

With the special Google Glass, which meets strict federal patient privacy guidelines, a dermatologist -- no matter where he or she is -- can see and hear exactly what the emergency room doctor and patient are seeing and hearing in real time.

In a demonstration, Porter was in one room with Chai looking at mosquito bites he got while in Taiwan a few months ago. Wu was down the hall watching on a tablet.

And this is how the consultation works: virtual medicine via a pair of high-tech glasses. Right now, these "smart" glasses are just being used on emergent dermatology patients with consent and only if they meet age requirements.

"Really, we think the sky's the limit with this for consult emergency medicine in other fields," Porter said.

Porter envisions, down the road, an ambulance crew using the eyeglass technology.

"Some of the things that are the most time sensitive, like stroke or heart attack, we would love to be able to capture that pre-hospital time," Porter said.

Porter said there are other health care settings where this technology is being used as a training tool in an educational setting, but he said Rhode Island Hospital is the first to use it for real-time emergency room care.