Google Glass Surgery
Surgeons have tested potential uses for Google Glass in a trial at a New York hospital

The applications of Google Glass could soon stretch to surgical training following a successful trial by doctors in New York, though privacy issues still need to be overcome.

The results of the trial, recently published in the International Journal of Surgery (IJS), reveal that the device was used by surgeons at Westchester Medical Centre to take hands-free photos and videos, look up billing codes and make internet searches for unfamiliar medical terms.

"We are just beginning to explore the functionality of this new device in medicine and surgery," said Oliver Muensterer, lead author of the study. "The applications of Glass are only limited to one's imagination. Considering that this is still an experimental device, it actually performed quite well."

Pairs of Google Glass were obtained by the study's authors through Google's Explorer programme.

Patient privacy

Muensterer warned that ethical issues need to be addressed before the device could be introduced on a wider scale, particularly those surrounding doctor-patient confidentiality.

"A big issue with Glass is how to handle patient privacy, particularly because the device connects to the Internet via Wifi and thereby streams its data through Google's servers," Muensterer said.

"It would be great if an encrypted version of Glass were available in the future for medical use, including the exclusive streaming to secure servers."

Evolving technology

Google Glass has been tested before in a medical environment but the new study is the first evaluation of its capabilities to be published in a medical journal.

It was also recently reported that the smartglasses were being trialled by researchers at Newcastle University in an effort to find new ways in which Glass can be used to support people with long-term conditions such as Parkinson's disease and dementia.

As the technology is developed and becomes more widely adopted, more functions and third-party applications can be expected to be introduced for Glass.

"We're glad to bring this interesting report on the early uses of Google Glass in the healthcare setting to our global readership," said Riaz Agha, managing editor of IJS. "It has much potential and we look forward to publishing more of such reports and see how this technology evolves."