Google Glass – friend or foe?

Publication1One of the newest trends in technology is wearables. Some of these devices like the Fitbit help you keep in shape by keeping track of how many steps the wearer takes and how well they sleep. Others like the Samsung Gear 2 allow you to check email, listen to music and do myriad tasks while looking like a normal watch. But, the most interesting wearable for optometrists is Google Glass.

As of a few weeks ago, Google Glass was only available for beta testing through its explorer program which allowed for only an elite group of tech-savvy individuals to purchase it ($1500). However, as of May 15th, anyone can purchase Glass and even obtain prescription eyewear that hosts the Glass computer. As such, some practices, including my own, have signed up to be Glass experts who can work with the approved frames.

So, what does Google Glass do and what makes it interesting to medicine? Well, for starters, Glass can take pictures and record video with voice commands. These applications can be extremely useful for hands free recording of surgical procedures. This can assist in educating health care providers, can serve as a permanent record in case complications arise, and allow for patients and doctors to communicate effectively even if they are not in the same city.

And what about day-to-day activities? Well, while using the recording device may unnerve people due to privacy concerns, I can certainly imagine recording video of my kids or maybe my favorite band at a concert. Glass can also translate words you see, help you with directions, and allow you to look up information. It can even help measure distances on a golf course and track the miles you run.  One detractor, some complain about eye pain after wearing the device for a number of hours.  Google has acknowledged this as a possible side effect of wearing Glass and can be due to unnatural eye movements like looking up for a long period of time.

As you can imagine, myriad applications are being developed to maximize this piece of technology. Also, other companies have developed similar devices. So, what do you think about Google Glass? Do you have privacy concerns? Do you think that this is a cool trend, or do you think Glass is lame and pretentious? Let’s discuss!

~David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association
http://eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

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Health care reform & vision coverage for your children

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Children’s vision now covered by most plans
If your child is covered by an individual or group health insurance plan in California, their annual eye exam and eye glasses are covered with no out-of-pocket cost until the child reaches age 19. This is required for health plans purchased through or outside Covered California.

Legal residents of California will be able to get health coverage through a new marketplace established by Covered California. Starting in 2014, there will be several new and expanded government programs, including Medi-Cal, that offer financial assistance to reduce the cost of health insurance.

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  1. Premium assistance — Federal help will be available to reduce the cost of an individual’s or family’s monthly health insurance payments.
  2. Cost-sharing assistance — Cost-sharing subsidies reduce the amount of health care expenses an individual or family has to pay at the time of medical care.
  3. Medi-Cal assistance — Starting in 2014, Medi-Cal will cover more people under age 65, including people with disabilities and those with incomes $15,856 or less a year for a single individual and $32,499 or less for a family of four. Medi-Cal is free for those who meet the requirements and is part of the changes included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act).

An online calculator at the Covered California website helps estimate how much it will cost to purchase health insurance in 2014 and the amount of financial assistance available to qualified individuals. In addition, by completing a Covered California application, an individual will learn whether he or she qualifies for financial assistance.

~Kristine Shultz, Government and External Affairs Director
California Optometric Association

Are contact lenses dangerous?

Courtesy of wader on Flickr

Courtesy of wader on Flickr

The Benefits

Contact lenses are medical devices that millions of people wear safely every single day. Many people enjoy the freedom from glasses that contact lenses allow.

Contact lenses are also great options for:

  • Sports
  • Changing eye color
  • People who have irregularities to the front of the eye, cornea, or are not able to see with glasses.

Contact lenses make it possible to see and function in everyday life.

The Dangers

Contact lenses can be dangerous if they are abused.

Contact lenses are medical devices and can only be prescribed and dispensed by a licensed eye doctor. If they are sold without being evaluated on the eye by a doctor it can lead to:

  • Eye infections
  • Eye inflammation
  • Eye injuries

Proper care is key

Proper contact lens care and handling are important components of the contact lens fitting process. Contact lens solution used incorrectly or “topping off contact lens solution” (adding more without disposing of the current solution) can lead to multiple complications. It is important to use sterile contact lens solution and not tap water due to bacteria in water. Never, ever put contact lenses in your mouth or spit on them to try to clean them.

Courtesy of listentothemountains on Flickr

Courtesy of listentothemountains on Flickr

It is also important to replace contact lenses at the recommended frequency. For example, daily disposable contact lenses should be replaced each day. Contact lenses that are overused and abused can lead to serious problems.

Certain contact lenses are approved for sleeping or extended wear. However, if your contact lenses are not approved for extended wear, this can lead to complications on the cornea, or front of the eye.

If you are interested in contact lenses, schedule an appointment with a doctor of optometry today.

~Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO