Google Health rolls out new tech offerings to improve access to care, health outcomes

The tech behemoth is leaning heavily on AI and its existing infrastructure to improve health.
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Google Health rolled out a variety of new initiatives and tools aimed at improving access to care and diagnosing diseases earlier at a Manhattan event on Tuesday.

The tech behemoth is leaning heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its existing products to address patient-facing issues like Medicaid re-enrollment and diagnostic tools for providers, Google executives said at the company’s Pier 57 office.

“The future of health is consumer-driven,” said Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer at Google. “People will expect a mobile-first experience with more personalized insights, services, and care. That means enterprises, including Google, will need to evolve to meet consumers where they are.”

Healthcare Brew highlighted some of the company’s latest endeavors:

Improved search functions

Millions of enrollees risk losing their Medicaid coverage when the redetermination period begins on April 1. Google executives said the search function will pull up relevant information to help users re-enroll, and that they have also verified the accuracy of the information for hundreds of thousands of providers—notably about hours and contact info. Similarly, Google is partnering with more healthcare providers later in the year to make appointments easier to book through its search function.

Google AI

The company’s “large language model designed to provide high-quality and authoritative answers to medical questions,” known as Med-PaLM 2, performed at an “expert” level on a US Medical Licensing Examination practice test—the highest score achieved by AI, said Alan Karthikesalingam, a senior staff clinician scientist and research lead at Google. Most AI models scored around 50%, while Med-PaLM 2 reached 85% accuracy.

What that actually means is that the technology is capable of answering medical questions with answers that are on par with what a doctor might be able to offer from their own knowledge base. For example, the AI model can give a pretty good response about why a patient might experience incontinence, but a doctor would be able to name specific reasons that could explain why the condition occurs. Google’s clinical evaluation found that Med-PaLM 2’s response omitted some information in its specific reasons as well.

“The potential here is tremendous, but it’s crucial that real-world applications are explored in a responsible and ethical manner,” Karthikesalingam said.

Ultrasound tech

“You’re probably familiar with big ultrasound machines in hospitals,” said Greg Corrado, distinguished scientist and senior research director at Google. “But in recent years, sensor technology has evolved to make ultrasound devices significantly more portable and more affordable, with many handheld devices available today for a fraction of the price.”

Enter: Google’s handheld device and technology that gives clear direction to a provider—especially those working in clinics in low-income countries—on how to administer an ultrasound. A demonstration following the presentation showed how a tech follows directions about how to glide the device over a breast or a stomach in order for the image to appear.

Google executives said the company is partnering with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan for breast ultrasounds and Jacaranda Health in Kenya for improved maternal health outcomes.

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