U-M looks to improve medical education with innovative Google Glass technology

May 12, 2015  //  FOUND IN: Announcements,

Fourth year medical students use Google Glass in the gross anatomy lab to pull up reference materials to support their learning (left to right Germanuel Landfair, Neil Bakshi, William (Trey) Shield, Matt Rausch, Albert George, Dr. Josh Miller, and Mario Vargas-Vila).

Imagine a group of medical students, gloves on, instruments in hand, deep in concentration during a dissection in the anatomy lab. Without having to put down their instruments, or even look up, the students can pull up reference materials to support their learning.

This scenario was the shared vision of faculty members in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, who hope to use Google Glass and innovative technology to enhance the medical education process at the University of Michigan.   

Clifford Craig, M.D., associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Joseph Maratt, M.D., clinical assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, approached Chris Chapman, manager of the Instructional Design and Technology Team in Medical School Information Services (MSIS), with an initial proposal to design a new test application. Thanks to funding from former acting EVPMA Dr. Michael Johns for a pilot project and the Google Glasses purchase, the team was able to move forward quickly. 

The project was assigned to Gracie Trinidad, MSIS project manager, who began meeting with the orthopaedic surgery team in October 2014.

“They wanted to develop an app that would host content, allowing completely hands-free ability to call up reference material to aid learning in the gross anatomy labs,” says Trinidad.  

MSIS technologists Yue Liu and Bob Riddle took responsibility for the software development. The first version of the application featured images pulled from an orthopaedic surgery textbook and reformatted for presentation on the Google Glass interface. A second version of the application played a video developed by James Goulet, M.D., service chief and professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, showing a surgical approach.

A group of fourth-year medical students volunteered to participate in a pilot with Google Glass, which took place during the M4 musculoskeletal course in March 2015. Trinidad, Liu and Riddle were able to visit the lab and see the pilot in action.

 “The students we observed were very engaged and also having fun with it,” says Riddle. “However, they had to resist the urge to check Facebook or other social media outlets."

Dr. Craig is already thinking about the next version of the application.

“Larry Page, co-founder of Google, and Tony Fadell, who is overseeing the remodeling of Google Glass, are alumni of the U-M College of Engineering,” Craig says. “We plan to share the results of our pilot project with them and hope to have some input on the next iteration of Google Glass.” For example, the next release of the Google Glass could possibly allow applications to pull new material from a server and enable users to select content from a menu or index.

Thinking about future uses within the Medical School, Dr. Goulet is exploring the possibility of surgeons using Google Glass in the operating room where they could film and share uncommon or complicated trauma surgeries.

“The implementation of wearable technology could be a major advancement in our approach to medical education at the University of Michigan,” says Dr. Zeller. “When perfected, this technology could prove to be invaluable in assisting our students as they perform cadaveric dissections, emergency medical procedures and surgical interventions.”

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Copyright 2015 the Regents of the University of Michigan. This article was written by Susan Topol and, except where otherwise noted, is published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/.

Photos courtesy of Gracie Trinidad. Copyright 2015 The Regents of the University of Michigan. Licensed under a CC:BY 3.0 license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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