Mount Sinai using Google Nest cams to monitor patients from afar

Researchers find eight security vulnerabilities in Google Nest cameras.
Image: YouTube | Google Nest

The COVID-19 pandemic is stretching the healthcare sector thin. Strategies that maximize efficiency while keeping workers safe are extremely important. After all, healthcare workers that contract the virus themselves are unable to care for the influx of patients.

That’s why facilities like New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital are turning to tech-based approaches to keep their employees safe. The hospital is using Google’s Nest cameras in patient rooms to allow staff members to monitor and communicate from afar. Doing so helps healthcare workers decrease their exposure to COVID-19.

Strategic Partnership

To help ease the transition, Mount Sinai is partnering with Google to install the Nest cameras. Two of them will be installed in more than 100 rooms at the New York City hospital in the coming days. One will allow the nursing staff to monitor and communicate with patients from the nurses’ station. The other will monitor the patient’s vital signs and relay a live stream of that data to the nurses’ station.

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For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Google’s Nest cameras is privacy concerns. In this instance, things are a little different. Google doesn’t store any of the footage collected through the cameras. In fact, it doesn’t even have access to it. This will help preserve patient privacy and ensure that only the on-site nursing staff see the footage.

A Google blog post written by Robbie Freeman, a nurse from Mount Sinai, notes that the system utilizes a “purpose built console.” It allows nurses to interact with patients and monitor their status while rarely entering their room.

Freeman writes, “We needed to find a way to give caregivers the ability to check on and communicate with patients that could supplement in-person checks, also helping reduce the use of PPE.”

Moving forward, Google is working to supply hospitals across the United States with 10,000 Nest Cams and the corresponding nurses’ station console. Considering that the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to wind down in many parts of the country, that’s an interesting bit of news. It remains to be seen how hospitals will use remote monitoring as part of their patient care strategies after the pandemic subsides.

Two Birds, One Solution

Aside from keeping healthcare workers safe, the Google Nest solution also helps in another aspect—preserving personal protective equipment (PPE). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a global shortage of PPE, including masks, gloves, gowns, and more.

By limiting the number of times a staff member enters a patient’s room, hospitals can cut back on their PPE usage. While that doesn’t solve the problem of not having enough equipment, it does buy time. Doing so allows manufacturers to continue ramping up their production of much-needed PPE.

Obviously, face-to-face care is an important part of medicine. Right now, though, minimizing contact is a top priority. Health tech is a natural solution to the problem. As companies like Google and Intel showcase their usefulness in the healthcare space, it will be incredibly interesting to see what medicine looks like several years from now.


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