TPR Podcast Episode #11: Google Glass and the Toxicologist

March 19, 2016, 5:31 pm

TPR Podcast Episode #11: Google Glass and the Toxicologist, with Dr. Peter Chai


Written by Leon Gussow MD FACMT


In this episode, Steve Aks and I talk to Dr. Peter Chai, a senior medical toxicology fellow at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, about his research on Google Glass and its potential use as an aid to consultation on poisoned patients.



Google Glass has the potential of giving us a new perspective on telemedicine. However, the use of this device presents several problems, especially involving data security, patient privacy and HIPAA compliance.


“Google Glass” is a head-mounted computer that can both receive and transmit data. It can take still pictures or videos of clinical specimens or patients and send them over secure channels to consultants or supervisors. While poison centers have been doing telephone consults for decades, the 21st century may demand advanced audio and video capabilities.


Although Google has discontinued their Glass explorer program, Google 2.0 is out and being tested. This version is reported to have improved network connectivity, video quality, and battery life.


Off-the-shelf Google Glass is not HIPAA compliant. If it is to be used in medical settings, the Google software must be removed and replaced with architecture that complies with HIPAA requirements. There are third-party companies that provide that service.


In their 2015 Journal of Medical Toxicology paper (see bibliography below,) Dr. Chai and his group investigated the feasibility of using Google Glass as an adjunct for resident bedside toxicology consultation. Emergency medicine residents rotating on the toxicology service would wear Google Glass when they saw, interviewed and examined patients. The supervising fellow or attending could communicate by voice or text with the resident during the examination. The authors concluded that using Google Glass in this context was feasible, to the extent that audio and video quality was adequate and their network connections and software were stable. The paper did not specifically address to what extent using the technology changed recommendations or outcome compared to traditional resident consults with phone backup.


Using Google Glass, the consultants were also able to send and receive high-quality pictures of EKGs, pill bottles, etc. Although it is possible to send and receive photos using cell phones, computers, and tablets, Dr. Chai made the point that such technology is not HIPAA compliant.


Last Episode’s Quizzler: A few years ago a popular polar bear at the Berlin zoo named Knut seized, fell backward into his pool, and drowned. This was an episode witnessed by hundreds if not thousands of zoo visitors. Recently zoo officials announced that they had diagnosed what was responsible for Knut’s death. So, what killed Knut?


The answer: anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. To read the New York Times story on Knut’s diagnosis, click here.


The first correct answer was submitted by: @forensictoxguy.


The new Quizzler is revealed on the podcast. The first correct answer submitted will win a $10 Amazon gift certificate and a TPR t-shirt. Submit answers to






The Virtual Toxicology Service: Wearable Head-Mounted Devices for Medical Toxicology. Chai PR et al J Med Toxicol 2014 Dec;10:382-7. (Full Text)


The Feasibility and Acceptability of Google Glass for Teletoxicology Consults Chai PR, Babu KM, Boyer EW. J Med Toxicol 2015 Sep;11:283-7


Feasibility and Acceptability of Google Glass for Emergency Department Dermatology Consultations. Chai PR et al, JAMA Dermatol 2015 Jul;151:294-6.


Clinical and surgical applications of smart glasses. Mitrasinovic S et al. Technol Health Care 2015;23:381-401.


Lessons Learned From Google Glass: Telemedical Spark or Unfulfilled Promise? Yu J et al. Surg Innov 2015 Jul 29 [Epub ahead of print]




Additional Resources


Dr. Peter Chai reviews the Google Glass unit:




The technology news site reviews the first iteration of Google Glass:




The Wall Street Journal takes a first look at Google Glass 2.0. Although the exact configuration of the new version is not finalized, initial information suggests that a button on the unit will have to be held down to record video:







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