Innovation Economy

Can Google’s Glass save lives?

Dr. Hiep Nguyen led app’s development.
Boston Children’s Hospital
Dr. Hiep Nguyen led app’s development.

Highlights from the Innovation Economy blog.

Everyone has been mocking Google’s Glass eyewear for its dweeby aesthetic. But would the teasing subside if Glass, which connects wirelessly to the Internet and can respond to spoken commands, was used to save lives?

A Scituate entrepreneur, John Rodley, is working on Glass software for use in hospitals.

“I think Glass is a game-changer, and I kind of enjoy seeing people dis it,” he says.


Rodley paid $1,500 to get his hands on the developer’s version of the Glass device and started crafting software for it. He showed off his progress so far in Cambridge last month at AngelHack, a competition for entrepreneurs and Web developers.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“We built a system for rapid-response teams at hospitals,” he says. “In some cases, they are coordinating care with people who might be in other locations on a campus or inside a big building.”

Rather than wait until those people arrive at a patient’s bedside, a nurse who is wearing Glass and using Rodley’s app would be able to live-stream video, along with vital signs, to the doctor or specialist who is on the way over.

“It gives them the first-person view of what’s happening at the bedside, along with data like heart rate and blood pressure. If they can’t see it, they’re not going to venture an opinion about the appropriate treatment until they get there,” he says.

The doctor can also use Glass to ask questions or communicate with the caregiver in the patient’s room.


Rodley’s start-up is called Farlo (Italian for “do it”), and the product is currently known as ArrtGlass. (The RRT in there stands for “rapid response team.”) He was formerly a manager at Sonos, which makes digital music systems, and Roam Data, an electronic payments company.

Getting your lab tests via an app

Boston Children’s Hospital has been testing an iPad app called MyPassport. It is designed to give patients and families more information during their stay, including results of lab tests, and it lets them submit questions and get answers quickly from their doctors.

Hiep Nguyen, a urologist, led development of the app, relying on resources from the Fasttrack Innovation in Technology team at Children’s. When the hospital conducted focus groups, Nguyen explains, some families of patients reported they “felt disconnected from their providers,” especially if English was not their first language. “In some cases, they didn’t know who some of their doctors were.”

Among the goals for the app are to provide a “better awareness of tests being done, who their providers are, and what the discharge criteria are.” Test results show up not as abstract numbers, but along a spectrum of blue, green, or red (red being worrisome).

The app interfaces with two medical records systems at Children’s and the hospital’s security database, which supplies photos of doctors and nurses. The app includes pictures of the patient and his or her family, which can be helpful as a reference for harried doctors trying to keep patients straight, Nguyen says. It replaces a binder full of paper that patients ordinarily receive, which for the hospital is labor-intensive to assemble and maintain.


The initial version of the app was tested by about 30 patients. A new version can be used on a patient’s iPhone or Android device to view discharge instructions and information about future appointments.

Nguyen says the next steps are to create foreign-language versions, most likely in Spanish and Creole, since families reporting the lowest satisfaction with Children’s tend to be non-English speakers, hospital surveys show.

MyPassport could also develop into a company funded by investors, Nguyen says. Though he does not have time to commercialize the product himself, “My greatest happiness would be to see this being used by many, many patients.”

For the full Innovation Economy blog, updated daily, visit