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Two great examples of live video streaming in the medical field

live streaming videoI’m always amazed at how humans find new ways to use technology – sometimes in ways never imagined by the inventors. Live streaming is one of those technologies. It’s found a way into many different aspects of our lives where we didn’t even know it could be, or should be. The field of medicine though, is one that has some obvious applications for live streaming. Exactly how people are using it though, is pretty interesting. Here are two recent examples to demonstrate the point.

Surgery and Google Glass

At a hospital in Devon, David Isaac at Torbay Hospital became the first surgeon in the UK to use Google Glass to stream an operation. Since then, other surgeons at the hospital have used it in other surgeries. They see it as a tremendously powerful tool for education in the medical field.

Since the camera sits right on the glasses frame, there is no camera hardware to get in the way of the surgeon. And because Google Glass basically is a small computer there isn’t any need for extra hardware to process the feed from the cameras that might also be a hindrance in surgery. The camera follows the surgeon’s view at all times, allowing students or other observers to follow exactly what he or she is doing. There is also the capability to feed the surgeon’s questions via the heads up display.

The hospital is using Google Glass in a trial to determine what is needed to use the technology on a larger scale. There are technical challenges still to overcome, but administrators say that patient confidentiality and privacy are the most important issues.

Google Glass has been in search of a market since it was first introduced. Given that surgeons don’t generally care too much what they look like while operating, there isn’t any stigma to overcome based on the aesthetics of the device (most people think it’s just plain ugly). Will Google Glass take over the medical live streaming market? It’s off to a good start.

Parents stay connected with premature newborns

For this second example we go across the pond. In the U.S., a hospital in the state of Kentucky has begun a program to live stream video of newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICI). The babies in the NICI are often there for many months. Parents and relatives often can’t stay nearby, or need to return home to care for other family members.

The hospital began using live streaming of each newborn in the unit to help families feel closer to their children during their extended stays. The parents are given access to a secure system they access with a username and password. This allows them to log in and see their child whenever they want. There’s also a way for the nurses to leave comments about their children they observe during their shifts.

As in the first example, privacy and security are a primary concern of the hospital. The parent accounts are deactivated when the infant is released from the hospital, though the parents can share their login with whomever they want while active. Also the video is not recorded or logged so there is no concern over security of the video on storage devices.

These two examples show two different applications of live streaming video in the medical field. One is focused on education, the other on families facing medical challenges. I wonder what other ways people will think to use live streaming to help people stay healthy and support families in the future.

Oliver Burt

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