Google doesn't have experience making masks or face shields, but the company is finding other ways to take advantage of its expertise to help the fight against the coronavirus. In a blog post on Monday, Google announced it has built a system using its popular Nest security cameras that will enable nurses to check up on COVID-19 patients from a safe distance.
Using the cameras along with purpose-built consoles, nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York will be able to watch live video feeds of patients from a centralized nurses station. As part of the initiative, Google intends to give hospitals around the country over 10,000 Nest Cams as well as the consoles that display the video feeds.
Remote monitoring is efficient — According to Robbie Freeman, a registered nurse at Mount Sinai and the author of the blog post, the new system allows caregivers to check in on patients faster while also reducing the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) that's in scarce supply. "Every minute saved by remotely monitoring the patients can be offered to assist another person in need," said Freeman. Each hospital room will be outfitted with two Nest Cams, one for seeing and speaking to the patient, with the other pointed at the machines tracking their vitals so nurses can decide whether they need to make a visit.
There have been more than 1.3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US and more than 80,000 deaths, with hospitals slammed and some rationing ventilators as the country slowly ramps up production of the potentially life-saving devices.
As this system was designed by one of the tech giants that the public is increasingly wary of, Google's post stresses that it spent several weeks ensuring the system follows all recommended and legal guidelines relating to healthcare devices and privacy. The system was built to be HIPPA-compliant and only nurses will have access to any footage collected.
Tech actually stepping up — Besides today's announcement, Google has donated more than $800 million to the fight against coronavirus and has been collaborating with Apple to develop cross-platform contact-tracing for monitoring the spread of the virus. Apple for its part has been taking advantage of its deep supply chain expertise to help ramp up production of coronavirus testing kits. The moves show how tech companies can do more than simply donate money and call it a day but rather repurpose their technology and skilled workforces to address the unique challenges grappling with the pandemic presents.