Will smart glasses ease the burden on healthcare?

District nurses at Queen Beatrix Regional Hospital in Wintersvik wear smart glasses during their tours.  Jan Mulders' photo

District nurses at Queen Beatrix Regional Hospital in Wintersvik wear smart glasses during their tours.Jan Mulders’ photo

Wound nurse Wendy Roelofsen from Queen Beatrix Regional Hospital in Winterswijk knows how her patients look at home, for example in socks, comfortable slippers or Crocs. She sees this through the smart glasses of the district nurses who take care of patients and can keep an eye on them from a distance.

Those glasses, also known as smart glassesEquipped with a camera and microphone, Roelofsen can see and hear what the district nurse sees and hears via her laptop or iPad. In consultation with Roelofsen, the area nurse treats the wound, often with graphics that Roelofsen makes on her own screen. At the same time, the area nurse sees in the glasses of smart glasses, for example, an arrow or a circle where the wound needs some extra ointment.

home situation

This is very helpful, Roelofsen says, and not just because the patient no longer needs to be taken to the hospital in a wheelchair taxi. “At first I came up with a one-sided treatment policy, but now I can consult with the district nurse and discuss together what is best,” Roelofsen says. Can the wound be rinsed and does the patient bathe? Smart glasses taught me that not everything we found in the hospital is also possible in the case of the home.

A look at this home situation also shows what shoes a person often wears, which can be very important. People in the hospital often wear smart clothes and smarter shoes, but that’s not always how they get around the house. Sometimes people wear Crocs because they find them comfortable, causing cuts in certain areas in people with diabetic feet.

While visiting a patient, a district nurse from Queen Beatrix Regional Hospital in Winterswijk communicates with an expert via smart glasses.  Jan Mulders' photo

While visiting a patient, a district nurse from Queen Beatrix Regional Hospital in Winterswijk communicates with an expert via smart glasses.Jan Mulders’ photo

The regional hospital in Winterswijk is one of dozens of Dutch healthcare facilities that operate pilots with smart glasses. They use glasses to allow experts like Roelofsen to remotely monitor with district nurses and other caregivers, who can then perform additional tasks, such as examining teeth or identifying abnormal behavior. In addition, glasses are useful for training nurses to practice without the patient immediately having a full sitting room.

A recent study conducted by an important research agency and the Institute of Knowledge Villans Time saving techniques in elderly care He mentions smart glasses as one of the means that can significantly reduce the pressure on health care for the elderly in the coming years. Glasses make care more efficient primarily by reducing travel time and improving collaboration between caregivers. Especially if glasses save time and money, health insurance companies like to co-sign pilots, for example by co-signing support requests.

Using smart glasses really saves a lot of time on Roelofsen. The first meeting with her patients still takes place in the hospital, but she usually uses smart glasses for follow-up appointments. These appointments take much less time: the patient is ready, the district nurse has already undressed the patient, so I only watch for five to ten minutes. Usually the consultation takes half an hour.

Compensation

On the other hand, the district nurse spends half an hour in the consultation that day, while in the old situation he did not have to attend. Ultimately, the sponsorship costs more hours of paid work. This may also be why the regional hospital has not yet succeeded in getting a health insurance company to pay for smart glasses and consultations. The hospital is now paying for it itself.

Smart glasses quickly cost a few thousand euros and you are not there with the glasses alone. When the regional hospital bought the glasses three years ago, the glasses still had to be fixed to make them suitable for healthcare workers. We’ve basically stripped down the mugs and made them as simple as possible. You can visit all the sites, or see what street you’re walking on. It was not necessary and not easy to use. And it has been voice activated in English, which has proven challenging for many people.

Technology and healthcare researcher Niek Zuidhof from Saxony University of Applied Sciences has been closely following developments in the field of smart glasses since 2014. Although the use of glasses in healthcare has grown exponentially since then, he sees many projects still in the pipeline. experimental stage. Scaling still needs to be done, but the problem is that system-wide organizations face all kinds of constraints. Who will pay for the glasses?

A district nurse takes care of a patient while a nurse monitors the wound through smart glasses.  Jan Mulders' photo

A district nurse takes care of a patient while a nurse monitors the wound through smart glasses.Jan Mulders’ photo

This was also discovered by Jarno Visser, healthcare technology consultant at Zorggroep Sint Maarten. A caregiver in the regions of Twente, Friesland, Gelderland and Utrecht has a shortage of caregivers who are authorized to perform certain procedures, such as changing the stoma bag, administering medications or giving an insulin injection. He says that in the next 10 years, this deficit will triple. So we wanted to see if it was possible to teach the less educated, help caregivers with these tasks and make them competent. A certified caregiver can then remotely monitor whether everything is going well via glasses.

legislation

The pilot was intended to demonstrate whether this method could reduce the severe shortage of certified caregivers. He didn’t get off due to all kinds of strict laws and regulations. For example, the law for giving injections dates back to 1993, when monitoring via smart glasses was still impossible. Now that this option exists, the law still says nothing about it. The complex financing system also hurt the pilot. “The district nurse and the nursing home monitor are paid for through two funding streams,” Visser says. It is not legally clear how you can allow the nurse to observe and get compensation. So the health insurance company’s response was no: This is a pioneer in a gray area and we don’t want to be the first.

According to Visser, more motivated healthcare workers and know-how are needed to widely roll out smart glasses or other time-saving innovations in healthcare. “If we really want to use the added value of healthcare technology, legislation and regulations will have to align with the developments we see in our environment.”

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