July 21, 2018
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New Google tool gives Maine doctors a second set of eyes and hands

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

You could forgive Heather Tupper for feeling as though a stranger were watching her doctor’s examination.

In a real sense, one was.

An offsite medical transcriptionist was watching through an Augmedix Google Glass tool — a tiny computer screen and video camera — that orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Thompson wore like a pair of glasses as he examined Tupper’s injured left knee Tuesday.

Tupper said she doesn’t mind the second set of eyes.

“It was natural,” Tupper said Tuesday during her examination at Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Orthopedic Surgical Specialists on Union Street. “The past few appointments that I’ve had, I haven’t even noticed that he was wearing them.”

EMMC is testing the new system at six of its locations as part of a pilot program that so far has shown encouraging results, according to Dr. Michael Ross, a pediatrician and chief medical information officer at EMMC. The health care provider is among 12 nationwide and the first in New England to use the Augmedix system.

The medical application being tested at EMMC allows the scribe to record information, but it also allows doctors to instantly call up medical records to share with patients. It spares doctors the chore of data entry, a time-consuming process that fragments examinations and can lead to record-keeping errors, Ross said.

“It takes all the information that is the patient’s story and puts it in one giant, accessible area,” Ross said.

Early results show the tool saves doctors an hour per day and allows them to see as many as 10 more patients per week, according to Rebecca Volent, a spokeswoman for EMMC.

The increased number of patients offsets the cost of the system, according to Ross, who declined to identify what the hospital is paying.

Polling of patients show that more than 95 percent allow doctors to use the tool, with a majority saying it improved the quality of the visits, Volent said. Record-keeping quality has also improved.

Tupper said the tool has streamlined her doctor’s appointments by giving her his undivided attention. Thompson said he can pay better attention to patients because he isn’t always taking notes.

The system guards against abuse of the compiled video, which is confidential, by automatically purging it once the scribe’s work is done. EMMC requires patients to sign waivers allowing the video recordings and doctors can shut off the tool at a patient’s request or when they think they should.

A Bangor surgeon at EMMC previously made medical history in 2013 by wearing the device to record a surgery. Google also rolled out a business-friendly Enterprise Edition of Google Glass this month.

EMMC officials will review the program in the fall to determine whether to keep the system, Volent said.


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