Swiss creates Google Glass app for medics

A doctor in Switzerland has created an app allowing paramedics to use Google Glass to improve the quality and speed of treatment for emergency patients.

Swiss creates Google Glass app for medics
The Google Glass app will allow paramedics direct contact with doctors in emergency situations. Photo: Rijans007/Wikimedia Commons

The app, devised at the University of Applied Sciences (HES-SO) in Sierre, canton of Valais, aims to save crucial minutes in an emergency medical situation by enabling specialist hospital doctors to interact directly with paramedics working at the scene, reports Valais newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

Using the functions of Google Glass, doctors will be able to see and hear exactly what the paramedic faces, and can give specialist medical advice before the patient is transferred to hospital.

The app also allows information such as heart rate, temperature and allergies to be available instantly to doctors.

Speaking to Le Nouvelliste, post-doctoral student Antoine Widmer, who developed the app, said: “Thanks to the integrated camera in the glasses, the specialist can see what’s happening in real time and better guide the paramedic in his work.”

Valais paramedic Olivier Verdu welcomed the app, saying “Normally we send vital statistics to the hospital by email. These glasses will help us to save time and allow us to stay in permanent contact with the patient.

“However we will have to see if in practice the app gets in the way. Because when we are watching a screen in the corner of the glasses, that will take our eyes away from the patient,” he added.

Although the app would transmit a patient’s personal details through Google Glass, Widmer assured the paper there are no confidentiality issues.

“The details are encrypted and sent directly from the ambulance to the hospital without going through a server. Google won’t receive the information,” he said.

The app will be available for sale by the time Google Glass is launched commercially in Europe, planned for 2015.

See how the app works in this video created by HES-SO:

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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad