PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh seems to always be on the cutting edge of new technology in medicine.
In fact, some local doctors are the only ones in the entire country using a new tool when it comes to trauma care.
It was April 9, 2014 when chaos erupted at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Police say a 16-year-old student went through the hallways, slashing and stabbing nearly two dozen people. Several of those victims were rushed to nearby Forbes Hospital.
Forbes, just months earlier, had been accredited as a Level II Trauma Center. The team proved it was ready to tackle a trauma situation and now the same doctors are leading the way with some newly developed technology.
Forbes Trauma Medical Director, Dr. Chris Kaufmann, along with other trauma surgeons and a physician’s assistant, have been using the new technology for about two months. They are the only ones in the nation testing it out.
They have been wearing Google Glass in conjunction with software, called VIRZ.
VIRZ was specially designed by a surgeon for trauma settings. Kaufmann says the technology would have been helpful during the Franklin Regional situation, but it’s useful in any mass casualty incident.
“We have the patient that needs to come in, have the bleeding controlled, go to the operating room, and we have to keep moving with those patients,” said Dr. Kaufmann.
The software has already been useful in different scenarios, especially with car crash victims, who often have multiple injuries. Surgeons can call up specific check lists, depending on the particular trauma.
“Trauma surgeons are the fighter pilots of medicine, just like fighter pilots use check lists before they fly, this Google Glass technology allows us, as we prepare for patient arrival to review what we’re going to do,” said Dr. Kaufmann.
In addition to the check lists, doctors can choose to receive prompts every two minutes. Those reminders are critical during a trauma, when the first few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
“It reminds us when to start antibiotics, it reminds us when to ask the team are we ready to go to CAT scan or the operating room,” said Dr. Kaufmann.
“So many things happen to a patient that can ultimately cause irrevocable damage, so the more timely the care of a trauma patient, the more likely the outcome is going to be positive,” said Heidi Felix, Chief Physician’s Assistant for the Trauma Department at Forbes Hospital.
Patient privacy was a big concern when designing the technology, so there is a small plastic cover over the camera portion of the device. At no point is the device recording or taking pictures of a patient.
“We designed a study to look at the patient perception of this technology, and so far with the patients we’ve accrued in the study, we’re getting some pretty positive information,” said Felix.
Surgeons at Forbes are giving the technology a thumbs up and although right now, they are the testers of VIZR with Google Glass, they expect the technology to spread.
“I predict that in the future, every trauma surgeon and potentially every emergency physician in this country will be wearing a technology like this,” said Dr. Kaufmann.