Google is a search and online advertising giant. More than 70 percent of worldwide online search requests are handled by Google, placing it at the center of most online users’ experience. What most people don’t realize is that it is also a diversified technology, research, and development company. One of the core technology and research areas of focus is in healthcare technology. Google uses its expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and deep machine learning to improve and develop healthcare technology. In this manner, it finds answers to healthcare issues where no question has been asked. Healthcare research is benefitting from the various Google AI experiments.
Healthcare Projects of Google
Google’s research into artificial intelligence in healthcare has given surprising results. A case in point is Google DeepMind, which is now developing healthcare solutions using the things it learned playing an ancient board game. Google subsidiary developed a Go-playing AI called AlphaGo, which was taught the rules of Go and encouraged to play with itself. This reiterative process taught the AI to discover winning strategies and develop ones on his own. It then won against the world’s best Go player. Since then, the company launched the Google DeepMind Health project in conjunction with the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to improve eye treatments. The initial stage includes gathering of data through the mining of medical records.
In the same vein, Google is betting that its artificial intelligence strategy will allow it to get ahead in healthcare. Calico, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is working on aging and age-related diseases.
Its life sciences subsidiary, Verily, is developing tools to collect and organize health data, then creating interventions and platforms that put insights derived from that health data to use for more holistic care management. In addition, Google is working on treatments for diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Further down the road, it plans to also work on COPD and cancer.
Promising Partnerships with Health Tech Companies
Verily has also teamed up with Optos, working on diabetic retinopathy detection. Optos, a Nikon subsidiary, is a recognized leader in devices for eyecare professionals. Google is also in partnership with other health technology companies like Johnson & Johnson. The joint venture is called Verb Surgical that aims to build a surgery platform that integrates robotics, visualization, data analytics and others.
Google uses an approach that involves data generation, artificial intelligence for disease detection methods, and disease and lifestyle management. The above approach makes it uniquely suited to enter the health insurance industry. And, by doing so, they can utilize it through different companies that are working on healthcare technology,
Interoperability in the Healthcare Industry
Another promising field is interoperability. It has delved into Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), a data standard that helps to facilitate healthcare information exchange. In 2016, the company bought Apigee, a company working on FHIR-based application programming interfaces (API) to advance interoperability. APIs are programs or modules that allow information requests, queries, and their responses to pass safely between one system to another. DeepMind developers are working on FHIR-based projects. These include an app that can detect kidney injuries and sends alerts to healthcare providers. Currently, FHIR is only a standard, however, Google’s use of this interface gives other developers reason to work on it as well.
Google is supporting interoperability and FHIR with the use of Google Cloud as a platform and its G Suite of apps for use in the healthcare industry. As part of its approach, Google is developing data sets, allowing others to integrate these in their researches. The Project Baseline Study by Verily is one example of such a dataset. It composes data from more than 10,000 participants who monitor their fitness activities.
Google is onto healthcare in a wide range of research, partnerships, and projects. Sundar Pinchai, Google CEO, looks at their work as a collaboration with existing laws and rules. He says, “If AI can shape healthcare, it has to work through the regulations of healthcare.” Pinchai is optimistic of their work. Further he says, “In fact, I see that as one of the biggest areas where the benefits will play out for the next 10—20 years.”