HOUSTON (April 03, 2014)
Patient Wearing Google Glass

Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, together with the help of the Google Glass Explorer program, is enhancing the patient experience in a way never before possible. The hospital recently allowed kids of all ages to virtually “visit” the Houston Zoo, located across the street from the hospital, without ever leaving their hospital beds. For an exclusive look at these amazing, high-tech patient-animal interactions, please view our Google Glass Explorer video.

Patients at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital were among the first in the nation to participate in the highly exclusive Google Explorer program. This groundbreaking new piece of “wearable” technology allows users to easily take videos and pictures from a direct point of view and take part in video calls via Google Hangout, all in a hands-free, voice command experience. Google Glass is not yet available on the market; an upgraded consumer version is rumored to be released later this year.

“We are thrilled to be able to leverage this exciting new piece of equipment to bring a virtual escape and some much needed happiness and distraction to our youngest patients during their stay with us,” said Susie Distefano, CEO of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “This unique opportunity to team up with the Houston Zoo, using state-of-the-art technology to literally bring their animals to our bedsides, has placed smiles on countless faces.”

Through a Google+ Hangout, hospital patients connected via video chat with the Houston Zoo’s own Google Explorer program. Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is the first children’s hospital in Texas to obtain Google Glass and this is the first project of its kind in the United States – a “double glass hangout” – with two Explorer programs joining together for a one-of-a-kind experience. Last year, the Houston Zoo was one of 8,000 contest winners to receive one of the much-hyped wearable computers and was the first in Houston to become members of the Google Explorer program.

“Since we received this new piece of technology, we’ve been able to offer the public a never-before-seen look at the Houston Zoo and what it’s like to work here,” said Ryan Draper, Interactive Marketing Coordinator for the Houston Zoo. “When Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital approached us with this exclusive partnership invitation, we knew it was a perfect fit. With the help of Google Glass, we can personally escort their pediatric patients behind the scenes to experience what it’s like to meet the meerkats or visit the jaguars, from the animal keeper’s point of view. What an awesome opportunity to light up a child’s day.”

Six-year-old Jayden Neal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about a year ago and, since then, has been a regular patient of Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “Because of Jayden’s condition, we come to the hospital often. This time he’s here for low blood sugars,” said Jayden’s mom, Raquel Neal. “On our way to the hospital the other day, we drove by the Zoo and Jayden said, ‘Mommy, I just want to go to the Zoo!’ So, now that’s all he’s been talking about: getting to go to the Zoo after all!”

Another patient, 11-year-old Trevor Lipinski, was able to link directly with Jonah the sea lion, for an up-close-and-personal experience with one of the Zoo’s most popular mammals. Sea lion supervisor Brett Posey was able to create an intimate interaction for Trevor with Jonah, even answering some of Trevor’s questions while demonstrating just how special the animals really are.

Going forward, Memorial Hermann plans to continue in the Google Explorer program and identify additional opportunities for applications; the options are endless. For example, a new study released just this week indicates that Google Glass may help calm patients during surgery.

"This first at Memorial Hermann sets the stage for the future use of Google Glass in other areas of medicine and patient care," said David Bradshaw, Chief Information Officer at Memorial Hermann. "This time, we enhanced the patient experience by offering our patients a unique opportunity to ‘leave’ the hospital while still receiving quality care at their bedside. As a next step, we want to explore the technology in clinical and care delivery settings.”

Memorial Hermann is no stranger to breaking technological boundaries. The health system has made international headlines for its live-tweeting of major operations, including an open-heart surgery, a brain operation, and the world’s first live-tweeted Caesarean section. This venture is the third public Google Hangout project from the system following an interactive chat on concussions and another on women’s cancer health topics.