Google's AI-powered healthcare solutions require support from patients, academia, medical community

In recent years, Google has invested what is estimated to be billions of dollars into healthcare innovation, focusing especially on artificial intelligence-powered solutions, NPR reports.

Much of this AI research is conducted by Verily, the South San Francisco-based life sciences firm owned by Google's parent company Alphabet. Verily, which raised $1 billion in a funding round in early 2019, is currently developing surgical robots that adapt and learn from each operation, among more than a dozen other projects.

"In each of these cases, you can use new technologies and new tools to solve a problem that's right in front of you," Jessica Mega, MD, Verily's chief medical and scientific officer, told NPR. "In the case of surgical robotics, this idea of learning from one surgery to another becomes really important, because we should be constantly getting better."

Another major initiative in the Verily pipeline is a collaboration with Duke University and Stanford University called Project Baseline, which is tracking the health and habits of 10,000 volunteers. This data, along with all the other information Google collects about its users, can be used to train algorithms to recognize patterns in the continuum between health and disease.

As for how the tech giant will collect and use all that data without invading users' privacy, Google neuroscientist Greg Corrado told NPR that much of the onus will be placed on "patients' desire to use their own information to better their wellness."

Google will also rely on help from the academic and medical communities to navigate this intersection of tech and healthcare. "A big part of the way that research and development should work in this space is by having kind of a long-term portfolio of technologies that you percolate through the academic and scientific community and then you percolate through the clinical community," Corrado said.

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