ODs See Potential for Google Glass to Enhance Eyecare


"OK, Glass, take a photo." For most Google Glass wearers, this typical voice command might yield a snapshot of a friend to be uploaded to the wearer's Facebook page. But for a Glass-wearing optometrist, it is just as likely to produce a close up image of a patient's anterior segment that can be shared with a corneal specialist during an online consultation.

Currently, only a handful of optometrists around the world are among the small but growing number of Glass "Explorers" and app developers who are trying out the device prior to its commercial launch in 2014. These tech-savvy ODs are already envisioning Glass as a valuable tool that can enhance their practice and their interactions with patients. Two of them, Matthew Alpert, OD of Alpert Vision Care in Woodland Hills, Calif. and Nikki Iravani, OD, founder of Global EyeVentures, which markets EyeXam, a mobile app that connects doctors with patients, shared their observations about Glass with Eye².

Dr. Alpert (pictured at right) was introduced to Glass through VSP Global, which is working directly with Google and is providing Google with user feedback about Glass from doctors who are participating in Premier, a voluntary rewards program.

"VSP has a long history of being an established leader in eyecare. It's early days for Glass, but VSP's guidance and feedback on the product will be critical as we work to improve the product ahead of a wider consumer launch in 2014," Google spokesman Chris Dale told Eye².

Although Dr. Alpert has been a Glass wearer for just six weeks, and has only worn it for three weeks, on and off, in his practice, both he and his patients are impressed with the technology. "Patients are extremely excited, interested and have lots of questions," said Dr. Alpert. "They are blown away and think the office is cutting edge when they see me wearing Glass. The 'wow' factor from patients is unparalleled."

Dr. Alpert said that in his practice, photo documentation and language translation (Spanish to English and vice-versa) are the most practical applications for Glass in its current format.

Dr. Alpert adapted to Glass quickly. "While the first couple hours were a little uncomfortable, by the end of the second day I would forget Glass was even on," he said. "The learning curve for the functionality of Glass took a little longer. The basic functions like taking a picture or video were easy. The part that took a little more time was programming and setting up Glass and getting used to connecting to Wi-Fi. It's very similar to switching to a new operating system on your smartphone.

"I've tried to wear Glass as much as possible in the office setting to get a good understanding of the functionality," he continued. "If the office is running smoothly and timing allows, I wear Glass during patient encounters. Patients get extremely excited about Glass and the questions can definitely slow down exam time." None of Dr. Alpert's patients are Glass Explorers, he said.

Dr. Alpert has tried wearing Glass over eyeglasses but said it can be a little bit awkward, though he added that Glass is still a new technology and "it only seems natural for the evolution to go toward the eyewear-Glass combination."

Looking ahead, Dr. Alpert foresees using Glass to improve inter-office communication, increase patient flow and efficiency and enhance his office's efforts with social media. He would like to see future versions of Glass utilize voice-to-EHR compatibility to increase office efficiency, provide differential diagnosis capabilities and medication interactions information, e-prescribing connection capabilities and low vision patient enhancements.

"This list could get quite long which is why VSP is so excited to be working with Google so closely in these early days," said Dr. Alpert. "Glass has many potential benefits for the profession of optometry and the patients VSP serves."

Dr. Iravani (pictured above) has been wearing Glass since May. "I've been extremely pleased with Glass," she said. "It's very useful. I'm a multi-tasker, and love anything that lets me do one more thing. You can use it to run different apps, which will appeal to a lot of consumers. For example, if someone is on their computer and is busy typing, if you have Glass on you can say "Glass, launch EyeXam," and the app comes up. Then you can say, "Appointment at current location," and a list of locations comes up. If you say, "Appointment with Dr. John Smith," it will connect your phone to the doctor's office."

Dr. Iravani sees great value in Glass' photography capabilities, particularly in the exam room. "When you're slit lamping, and see something you want to photograph, you say, "Glass take a photo." You can take multiple photos, and can pick from an archive of photos. If you need a colleague's opinion, whether it's next door or crosstown, you can say "Glass send this photo to…" However, there are a lot of HIPAA regulations surrounding this, so you'd need to be compliant."

Glass could also be beneficial when worn by a patient with a chronic condition that needs monitoring, Dr. Iravani pointed out. "For example with AMD, you can do the monitoring with an Amsler Grid instead of a piece of paper, and now it's available via mobile apps when you launch EyeXam," she said. "The patient can share the test results with you right from their Glass, and the doctor can stay engaged with them."