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Google Glass in the Operating Room: Help or Hindrance?

The first time I saw the Google Glass, I was positively captivated. The possibilities for this wearable computer with an optical display and camera seemed endless.

As technology has become exceedingly pervasive, it’s no surprise that the health care industry has been keen to adopt new innovations. From beeping pulse oximeters to robots performing surgery, it seems computers are everywhere – even worn by surgeons in the operating room.

At first blush, wearing computerized glasses with a heads up display and recording capabilities seems like a great idea. The device can provide surgeons with instantaneous, hands-free access to a patient’s medical records, vital signs, and other important information while in the operating room. The doctor can also transmit a live-stream video of the surgical procedure to remote locations, allowing for real-time consultations with specialists or providing valuable educational experience for medical students.

Google Glass use in the operating room raises concerns.

Google Glass use in the operating room raises concerns. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Zugaldia.)

Distracted Doctoring

While Google Glass may offer an abundance of opportunities for health care providers, since it is connected to the internet, there are serious concerns over potential abuses.

“Being able to see your laparoscopic images when you’re operating face to face instead of looking across the room at a projection screen is just mind-bogglingly fantastic,” said Dr. Peter J Papadakos, anesthesiologist and Director of Critical Care at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “But the downside is you don’t want that same surgeon interacting with social media while he’s operating.”

We all know that texting while driving is dangerous because our attention is diverted from the task at hand. Now imagine your surgeon, anesthesiologist, or a nurse distracted by their smart phone or tablet during a surgical procedure. Think it doesn’t happen? Think again. A 2011 article published in the New York Times stated that examples of distracted doctoring “include a neurosurgeon making personal calls during an operation, a nurse checking airfares during surgery and a poll showing that half of technicians running bypass machines had admitted texting during a procedure.”

To combat this problem, many hospitals and other care facilities have established (or are in the process of creating) rules regarding the use of personal electronic devices by health care providers. Deviation from these regulations during critical care, which results in harm to a patient, may be considered medical malpractice.


Although some critics advocate banning such devices from the operating room, there may be an upside. In the unfortunate event of a medical mistake, the video capabilities of Google Glass may provide critical evidence at trial. Much like the dash cam of a police officer, the visual evidence collected by the device during surgery, combined with expert testimony, can help make a compelling case.

If you have questions about injuries in a medical setting due to a distracted health care professional, contact an experience medical malpractice attorney.


Google Glass Enters the Operating Room” by Anahad O’Connor, New York Times, June 1, 2014.

As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows” by Matt Richtell, New York Times, December 14, 2011.