The use of telehealth has boomed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is limiting face-to-face care across the globe. Now, researchers are utilising smart glasses to deliver telehealth in nursing homes where clinical care is vital, but patients are at high risk of infection.
The smart glasses are being piloted by researchers at the University of Louisville (UofL) for telehealth delivery in nursing homes, as long-term care facilities and emergency departments are two areas in greatest need of the glasses for direct physician care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
R Brent Wright, associate dean for rural health innovation at the UofL School of Medicine, said: “There is both an urgent and widespread need to not only treat patients but deliver expertise and training remotely and safely to both professionals and medical learners.
“The timing had to be right for this technology to become more accepted. It will be a big part of healthcare moving forward, even after this swell with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will be exciting to see some of our current medical residents incorporate telemedicine into their future practices.”
The UofL Trager Institute, emergency medicine and psychiatry are part of a feasibility study to test the Vuzix M400 smart glasses.
How do the glasses work?
The glasses, to be used by healthcare workers, are connected to the web and have a microphone and camera attached, with the technology to potentially display and obtain information that can be accessed remotely. The workers dial-in through Zoom – a video conference platform, and are able to see and interact with patients directly.
The glasses can be voice-controlled, which allows healthcare workers to be handsfree, and data can be inputted into patient medical records.
During the pilot, the glasses will support healthcare workers at five long-term care facilities and one emergency department in Kentucky. The pilot will be followed up by a feasibility study, which if successful, will be researched for the utility of usage for medical education following the pandemic.
Telehealth solutions for healthcare
Anna Faul, PhD, executive director and professor, UofL Trager Institute, said: “It is imperative that we find solutions for healthcare to continue for the vulnerable nursing home population in Kentucky.
“The use of smart glasses to provide real-time, expert geriatric care to residents of long-term care facilities is a huge step in increasing access to care, particularly during COVID-19. Each nursing home in our study will receive smart glasses that will allow for remote video consults with specialised medical providers and behavioural health experts without the need for the providers to enter the facilities and expose themselves and other patients to COVID-19.”
“This technology holds great promise. UofL faculty are exploring how to transform health care and this is part of an innovative solution as we provide care and educate the next generation of physicians,” said Toni Ganzel, MD, dean of the UofL School of Medicine, and vice president for academic medical affairs.
“The pandemic has served as the catalyst for changing delivery of care. When you have to do things so rapidly and emergently, there is a call to be creative and innovative. Telemedicine allows us to share expertise while keeping a safe distance, and the smart glasses are very high-fidelity.”