Former FDA digital chief joins Google Health

Google appointed Bakul Patel, the former head of digital health at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to develop and lead its unified digital health and regulatory strategy.

Mr. Patel, who spent 13 years at the FDA leading its regulatory and scientific efforts covering digital health devices, said he was making the move via LinkedIn. 

"The power of technology, when coupled with a unified digital health and regulatory approach, promises to transform people's lives," wrote Mr. Patel in his LinkedIn post. "I want to continue to build a world in which we use technology to engage individuals, caregivers and communities globally in care delivery, enabling us to reach populations that have long been overlooked, marginalized and underserved."

During his time at the FDA, the agency launched a Center of Excellence to oversee digital health products such as smartphone apps, wearable devices and software-based treatments. He also helped develop the FDA's framework for reviewing artificial intelligence products and an action plan detailing a multipronged approach to advance oversight on AI and machine-learning-based medical software. 

The move comes as Google intensifies its focus on health tech and expands its reach into the healthcare market. 

Most recently, the tech company has announced it is working on three AI projects — a smartphone stethoscope, AI tech that can read prenatal ultrasounds and AI that can spot illness using the camera on a smartphone. The company's AI natural language processing tool is also being used at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic to better track and analyze language-based information in patients' EHRs.

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