Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Rafael Grossmann, The Google Glass Surgeon

Thasin Jaigirdar
Published on Sep 8, 2014. Updated on Invalid date.

Dr. Grossmann MD, FACS, is a General Surgeon, with interest in Trauma, Advanced Laparoscopy and Robotic Assisted (multi-port and single-port) surgery. He is heavily involved in technological innovation within healthcare. He is a strong advocate in the potential of Google Glass in helping improve healthcare in the United States and globally. He has had the opportunity to speak multiple times about the integration of Google Glass with Medicine at TEDx venues and other global platforms. He can be followed at http://rgrosssz.com/ and on Twitter @ZGJR

What drew you to medicine and how did you get interested Laparoscopic surgeon? I am a general surgeon with great passion and interested in innovation technology in healthcare. I love gadgets and technology, so one ne of my natural inclinations was to try to steer my career towards minimally invasive surgery. I started doing it in the early 90s. I was lucky to be trained under Dr. James “Butch” Rosser, a top physician in Laparoscopic Surgery.I completed his “Top Gun” program in advanced laparoscopy and medical technology in 2004, and  that  got me interested in doing more. From there, I went to discover robotic assisted Laparoscopic surgery, and in fact I was one of the pioneers in that field in Maine. currently, my practice involves not just elective surgery (from general to minimally invasive), but also trauma and acute care surgery. Our team became  the first ever ACS accredited Trauma Program in the state of Maine, back in 2005.

Can you talk a little bit about your experience in your rural internship during your final year of medical school and how has it shaped you?
During my last year of medical school, back in Venezuela, I did an internship in a remote area in the Amazon, where it was hard to get medical help from anyone. Lack of effective connectivity and communication really impacted medical care in a negative fashion.I took that experience as the starting point of my interest in doing telemedicine. I wanted to improve access to sources that need medical help. It could open up opportunities in helping to treat a patient who may otherwise be completely isolated. I did a TEDx in Bermuda last year, that touched on this issue, and explained some of my early experiences and how they somewhat shaped my career (http://youtu.be/fo3RsealvGI). Also, in 2011, I gave a TEDx talk about the use of mobile devices for telemedicine (http://youtu.be/_9QW5jhuPKI)

What drew you to getting interested in using Google Glass as part of your work?
Google Glass is a 1st edition device  and has been upgraded many times with respect to its software. Most people are not using it routinely in a clinical setting. Reasons for wanting to use the Google Glass are many,but they all circle around the fact that improved connectivity and communication among providers and with patients, will improve healthcare. Google Glass  integration with the EMR (electronic medical record), has the potential to decrease medical errors, decrease cost and overall, improve efficiency. After performing the first operation with a Google Glass ever recorded, in June, 2013, I have been using Glass in different, simulated clinical scenarios.  Wearable devices also have a very important role and potential to revolutionize the way we do medical education, bringing “user’s point-of-view perspective to students or providers who need guidance or mentoring. Telemedicine is also one of the main applications where Glass could improve things significantly.

Concerns about privacy of patient medical data (HIPAA), is the main reason not to use it in clinical scenarios yet. The Glass software used to stream data is not yet HIPAA compliant, in general, with the exception of a few companies that have been making great strides in this matter. We are currently working on a project for EMS transport, that will use software specifically designed to meet strict privacy criteria. But as of right now, HIPAA is an important issue that needs to be covered and we must comply with its regulation to fit the operating room environment. I see Google Glass  as the next step, the natural evolution of the computing device, connecting us humans to the digital realm.

How do you see technology and telemedicine changing medicine going forward?
I think technology develops exponentially. However, it’s not just the technology, it’s the smart use of the technology, the ideas behind the use of it that will improve the ways of healthcare, how it is  is taught and done.   As we all know, healthcare is currently a mess and in deep trouble (another TEDx talk I gave in 2013, http://youtu.be/DVzkw7y4_u4).It is very expensive (18% GDP), inefficient, risky (think preventable medical error, wrong site surgeries, etc.). It is basically, unsustainable. I think that technology, and tools like Telemedicine and Health, will allow us to provide better care via improved connectivity and communication between healthcare professionals and patients. Most of the healthcare error these days are as a result of poor communication and integration.

What are the biggest challenges facing physicians today in the United States and in the world?

One of the biggest challenges we have is poor connectivity and communication. The lack of proper communication and connectivity and the tools to do so are big barriers for providers in giving good, efficient and cost-effective care. I think that regulation is another major barrier in providing care. HIPAA is a big hurdle and something that slows down not only the care of patients, but the development of new tools to take care of patients. This is very evident in telemedicine. Sure, ensuring privacy of patient’s data is important, but as technology evolves, so should regulation, and it should adapt. Therefore, technology will not constitute a barrier for care and development. I would think currently, technology applications and a change in culture with regards to the use of technology in medicine is one toughest barriers we have.