Ashmita Chatterjee

Associate Director, Analytics

Google Contact Lens: More Data Than Meets the Eye

As a team who lives by the mantra “Analytically Driven,” we’re always on the lookout for innovative ways other groups, even those outside the marketing sphere, embody that mindset. We collect fascinating stories of using data to evolve the understanding or efficiency of a process, dive deep into the core takeaways and learn how to apply those lessons to our own industry. Today we’ve got an example of technology that has the potential to raise the bar on the way data is collected and organized by healthcare providers.

For the past several years, the healthcare industry has been touting the arrival of “remote patient monitoring,” which is accomplished by devices that allow doctors to monitor a patient’s health without having to be in the same place. The implications of this type of technology are wide reaching, allowing patients access to information that formerly required a trip to a doctor’s office, and giving health professionals access to real-time information that can help them assess a patient’s immediate needs. One company that is entering this emerging market is Google, where researchers are working on a smart contact lens that may soon be able to help over 382 million people in the world who have diabetes. Below I will discuss how Google is utilizing advanced data collection technology to revolutionize the healthcare industry and the way diabetes is treated.

Today, patients with diabetes must pay close attention to their blood sugar levels throughout the course of a day. For most, this means pricking a finger up to six times a day to acquire a blood sample that is then analyzed by a portable glucose meter. Instead of gathering data from a blood sample, Google’s contact lens uses tears to assess a patient’s blood sugar level. On its official blog, the company offered details of its prototype, which embeds a wireless microchip about the size of a piece of glitter, and an antenna that is thinner than a human hair, between two layers of contact lens material. Data collected by the device can be transmitted wirelessly to a computer or mobile device, and Google plans to partner with companies to build apps that will allow this data to be analyzed and viewed by patients and doctors.


Using the data provided by remote monitoring devices, doctors can tailor treatment to meet the needs of specific patients. For example, an individual with Type 1 diabetes could be told exactly how much extra insulin to take to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis (a life threatening complication of the disease). Using an app that can analyze data collected from a remote monitoring device, patients could take control of their own treatment, making informed decisions based upon up-to-date vital readings.

With accurate medical information and treatment recommendations at their fingertips, patients can avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital for testing and treatments that can be safely administered in the comfort of their own home. As remote monitoring devices become commonplace, visits to hospitals could possibly decrease, which will in turn increase the efficiency of our nation’s healthcare system. Forbes recently quoted a 2010 Rand Corp. study which found that $4.4 billion is spent annually on individuals who visit the ER for non-urgent care. Remote monitoring devices could make individuals aware of the urgency of their condition, leaving emergency rooms to take care of patients that truly need immediate treatment.

Patients and doctors can use data collected by monitoring devices, but it can also be used to benefit the medical community and improve the treatment of particular conditions. Owners of monitoring devices could opt to share the data collected by their device with researchers and doctors, so that the effectiveness of specific treatments could be measured. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have already built an app that uses clinical data to assess a patient’s diabetes risk. The more data it can draw from, the more accurate its assessments will become.

Diabetes is just one of the many diseases which will be affected by the rise of remote monitoring devices and advanced data collection technology. A company called Sotera has developed a device that can monitor heart and pulse rates, ECGs, blood oxygen saturation level, blood pressure, respiration rate and skin temperature. These vital signs could be used to help treat everything from heart conditions to pneumonia for patients who are in a hospital or getting bed rest at home. The convenience and real-time information provided by this technology is unmatched, so you shouldn’t be surprised if you begin to encounter remote monitoring devices with increasing frequency. A report published by Kalorama Information forecasts that the U.S. market for remote patient monitoring will reach $20.9 billion by 2016. Google’s smart contact lens isn’t just a flashy demonstration of technological prowess; it’s a look at the future of healthcare.

02/11/2014 at 03:02

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