The phrase “the doctor will see you now” may soon mean something new. Pristine, a start-up out of Austin, Texas, has developed a telemedicine app for Google Glass that will let hospital staff send real-time audio and video to specialists, wherever they may be.
Pristine cofounder Kyle Samani was working for a health-care IT company in early 2013 when Google announced the launch of Glass, which packs many of the functions of a smartphone into a sleek head-mounted device. He immediately saw Glass’s potential for hospitals. “A hands-free computer in health care makes a lot of sense,” Samani says. Doctors wouldn’t have to worry about picking up bacteria by handling a tablet or typing on a keyboard, he says, and they could interact with their patients without turning away to enter data. “As soon as Google announced Glass, I started working on this,” Samani says.
Samani and his cofounder, Patrick Kolencherry, got their hands on one of the early units that Google doled out to selected “explorers” for US $1,500 apiece. Then they set out to harness Glass’s capabilities—but also to strip it of functions that jeopardized patient privacy. Pristine’s modified Glass headset can’t store audio or video, but instead streams them live through encrypted channels to a remote server, allowing a medical specialist to view them using any computer. The founders also took away e-mail, phone, and text capabilities to make sure patient information couldn’t be sent to people outside the system.
According to Tony Danova, a BI Intelligence analyst who authored a report on Glass’s sales potential, Pristine is one of many companies trying to bring Glass into the workplace. While Google’s first concept video for Glass suggested that it would be a consumer device that people would use in their everyday lives, so far it’s actually enterprise apps that are showing the most promise, Danova says. “From a consumer standpoint, Glass still seems a little obtrusive and conspicuous,” he says.
In October 2013 Pristine signed up UC Irvine Medical Center as its first pilot customer. In operating rooms, Glass-wearing surgeons tried using Pristine’s EyeSight app to stream a first-person video to doctors in training. The app itself worked well, Samani says, but the immaturity of Google’s Glass hardware and software posed problems. “[Glass] is definitely still a beta product,” he says. “We didn’t realize how buggy it would be when we started.” Samani’s team also had to improve Wi-Fi coverage at the hospital to ensure smooth functioning.
Pristine began generating revenue in February 2014 when Rhode Island Hospital, in Providence, adopted its system for a tryout in the emergency room. Paul Porter, director of special projects and telemedicine at Brown University and manager of the tryout, says he is eager to use Glass to facilitate consultations with specialists. “We’re not looking to apply this tech everywhere,” he says. “We’re looking to put that crucial person in the room at the crucial time.” In the hospital’s first trial, ER patients with dermatology complaints will have the option of being examined by Glass-wearing doctors, who will transmit everything they see to an off-site dermatologist.
If the system proves useful, Porter can imagine using it for much more critical areas of care, such as emergency treatment of stroke patients: Stroke medications are most effective if given immediately, and doctors lose valuable time in the ER as patients are registered and drugs are prepared. If the paramedics in the ambulance are wearing Glass and can start the intake while still on the road, they can save time and possibly lives. “I think this will be the standard of care,” Porter says. “I think we’re going to change emergency medicine.”
This article originally appeared in print as “Profile: Pristine.”