Google shakes up healthcare strategy in 2021: A timeline of key developments 

Google made several moves in 2021 to shake up and strengthen its healthcare presence, from restructuring its health unit to inking a slew of partnerships with hospitals and health systems. 

Here is a timeline of the tech giant's key healthcare moves in 2021. Developments are separated by three categories: leadership and strategy, partnerships with healthcare players and healthcare projects. 

Leadership and strategy

March 17: Google Health taps former Highmark CMO Charles DeShazer, MD, to serve as its director of clinical products. 

June 8: Google posts a job listing for director's chief of staff at Google Health. The position is described as working with Google's chief health officer to ensure operational and strategy success. 

June 17: Google Health begins moving more than 130 of its 700 employees into other areas of the company, including Search and its newly acquired Fitbit group. 

Aug. 19: David Feinberg, MD, the vice president of Google Health, announces plans to leave the company after three years to become CEO of Kansas City, Mo.-based EHR vendor Cerner. 

Aug. 19: Google says it is dissolving hundreds of employees in its health division into existing divisions. 

Aug. 23: A Google spokesperson confirms to Becker's that teams under Dr. Feinberg's leadership will continue under a new structure, as the Google Health name will remain to include all of Google's work in health and wellness. 

Sept. 9: Google Chief Health Officer Karen DeSalvo, MD, tells Bloomberg that Google's new strategy is an effort to embed healthcare research and initiatives into its core products, such as Google Search and YouTube, rather than launching new commercial services. 

Sept. 21: The Wall Street Journal reports that Google plans to buy a New York City-based office building for $2.1 billion, a signal that it plans to bolster in-person work amid other companies' embrace of remote offices. 

Oct. 26: Google appoints former Headspace executive Dr. Megan Jones as its first clinical director of consumer and mental health. 

Google partnerships with healthcare players 

Feb. 12: Google Cloud partners with the University of Minnesota to create an education program for students pursuing healthcare careers. Under the program, students are matched with a professional from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, who acts as their mentor and shares with them relevant career experiences and support.

Feb. 18: The Star Tribune reports that Google is planning to open its first office in Minnesota as part of its ongoing health partnership with Mayo Clinic. 

Feb. 23: Google and St. Louis-based Ascension continue the collaboration they began in 2018 by rolling out a tool, dubbed Care Studio, to help clinicians better organize and search for patient information. 

March 2: Highmark Health builds on its tech partnership with Google Cloud by launching a six-year collaboration with Verily. Under the collaboration, Highmark will add Verily's digital care tools for managing chronic conditions, including congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to its Living Health model for patients and clinicians. 

April 1: Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center joins the pilot of Google's Care Studio EHR search tool. 

April 27: Henry Ford Health System in Detroit partners with Google Cloud and Miracle Software Systems to launch an international competition to propose ideas for reducing health inequalities using technology.

May 18: Google teams up with Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine to develop an AI tool to support clinician work by triaging mammography patients.

May 26: Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare inks a multiyear collaboration with Google Cloud focused on building a health data analytics platform to support the health system's clinical and operational workflows. Under the partnership, HCA will use Google Cloud's healthcare data offerings, including the Google Cloud Healthcare application programming interface and BigQuery.

Sept. 1: Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health deploys Google's Workspace platform to improve patient and employee collaborations across its 140 hospitals.

Oct. 18: Blue Shield of California and Google Cloud partners on a cloud-based solution that allows the insurer to process claims in real time. 

Oct. 20: Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health migrates its clinical and business operations to Google Workspace. Under the collaboration, the health system is using Google Cloud to protect its data as it deploys AI in clinical areas, including newborn screenings, mammography screenings, prostate cancer screenings, sepsis detection and COVID-19 detection. 

Dec. 8: Google partners with the World Health Organization to build an open-source developer kit to empower healthcare providers in low- and middle-income countries.

Google healthcare projects 

Jan. 14: Google completes its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, furthering its efforts to improve its wearables division. 

Jan. 25: Google details its plans to provide more than $150 million to support COVID-19 vaccine education and distribution efforts and convert several of its office spaces into vaccination sites.

Feb. 4: Google Fit announces it will launch new features allowing users to measure heart rate and respiratory rate with the Pixel phone's camera.

March 9: Google Cloud makes its new healthcare consent management application programming interface generally available for health tech developers and clinical researchers who work with patients' health data. 

April 9: Google enters the early stages of a new project aiming to explore and develop a consumer-facing health records tool for Android users. Google is not directly partnering with any healthcare organizations on the project, which could support the development of a medical records tool similar to Apple's Health Records app, STAT reports. 

April 15: Google commits $250 million in advertising grants to government and public health organizations to fund 2.5 billion vaccine-related public service announcements. Google also said it will provide 250,000 COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need.

April 15: Google Cloud launches a call center with virtual agents to assist callers in 28 languages to address COVID-19 questions and share the data with public health agencies. 

July 14: Researchers from Google Health, Naval Medical Center San Diego and The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine develop an AI model to predict breast cancer status and understand tumors better for treatment. 

July 19: Google's YouTube launches an initiative to combat health misinformation, which has three main focuses: removing misinformation, reducing its spread and promoting credible sources of health information. 

Aug. 27: Google moves forward with plans to shut down Streams, a mobile app developed to help clinicians track patients' conditions, just two years after finalizing its acquisition. 

Oct. 17: Google announces it will launch a mobile app for its Care Studio EHR tool. 

Dec. 3: Google announces it will roll out new features to its search engine that aim to help patients find physicians who are in network with their insurance and reduce language barriers. 

 

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