18 things to know about Google in healthcare for 2020

Google has continued expanding its healthcare division, aiming to improve diagnostics and the clinician's ability to treat patients.

But the move into healthcare had caused some controversy in how data is gathered and used. Here are 18 things to know about Google in healthcare.

1. Google reports that around 7 percent of its daily searches are health related, and it receives around 1 billion health questions every day, or 70,000 health-related searches each minute.

2. Google, Microsoft and Tencent are responsible for more than 70 percent of the deals made for digital health startups, according to CB Insights. Google is No. 1, with 57 digital health startups in its portfolio. The company's investments have focused on genomics, clinical research, insurance and benefits.

3. Google's revenues were up in 2018, jumping 23 percent to $136.2 billion.

4. In February, Google Cloud partnered with Flywheel, a provider of cloud-based tools for biomedical research. The partners aim to provide clinical researchers with cloud technology for medical imaging research.

5. Google partnered with its sister company Verily in February to for a program to screen medical images for diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, installing the technology at a hospital in India.

6. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported Google was dismantling its AI advisory board, which reviewed its artificial intelligence solutions in healthcare. WSJ reported the board disbanded over disagreements about how to govern itself. The company also canceled its artificial intelligence global advisory council.

7. On June 26, a former University of Chicago Medical Center patient filed a lawsuit claiming the hospital's partnership with Google violated HIPAA. The two initially partnered in 2017 to improve predictive analysis in data from patient records. The records had date stamps of when patients checked in and out of the hospital, which the lawsuit claims violated HIPAA; otherwise, the data was de-identified. In August, the partners moved to dismiss the lawsuit.

8. Google Health completed its acquisition of U.K. startup DeepMind, which was initiated for $500 million in 2014. DeepMind focuses on artificial intelligence research and mobile tools to improve patient care and clinical workflows. DeepMind now has access to Google's app development, data security and cloud-storage expertise.

9. EHR company Meditech and Google Cloud partnered on Oct. 2. Meditech EHRs will now be available through the cloud as a service subscription. The partners hope this move will help Meditech users avoid ransomware attacks. Meditech also plans to develop native cloud products and application programming interfaces.

10. Google appointed former ONC national coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, as the chief health officer in October. She will advise Google on providers, physicians and nurses, working within Alphabet's cloud computing and life sciences sector.

11. Google Cloud added an EHR voice assistant in October. Suki, the artificial intelligence, voice-enabled digital assistant, aims to help clinicians complete administrative tasks including documentation or EHR information retrieval. Physicians have reported the time spent on each note dropped 76 percent on average over the past year, from 13 minutes to 3 minutes.

12. On Nov. 1, Alphabet reported it will acquire Fitbit for around $2.1 billion. Fitbit said its consumers' health and wellness data wouldn't be used for Google ads, and Google hopes the acquisition will boost its wearables division. The DOJ received clearance to review the acquisition in December.

13. Google Health head David Feinberg, MD, presented the company's new health-related search ideas at the HLTH healthcare conference in Las Vegas in late October, revealing that Google doesn't plan to compete with existing EHR vendors, but rather aims to provide search functions that integrate with the EHR to help with data entry, charting and billing. He also said Google search and YouTube teams are working on strategies to reduce false information and advice on their platform, which may include developing a separate search site.

14. On Nov. 5, The Washington Post revealed Google had planned to post more than 100,000 X-ray images online before the National Institutes of Health stepped in. NIH and Google partnered in 2017 to store patient X-ray scans on the cloud. The two collaborated to clean images of patient data on July 21, but two days before launching, NIH told Google that dozens of images still included the patient information and Google immediately deleted all of the information from its servers. The partners ended the project.

15. On Nov. 11, The Wall Street Journal published an article outlining how the partnership between Google and St. Louis-based Ascension has raised concerns about the privacy of patients' personal health information. The collaboration, dubbed Project Nightingale, entailed gathering patient information to create healthcare solutions. Google received data on lab results, diagnostics and hospitalization records, which at least 150 employees had access to. Ascension hoped to modernize its infrastructure through the collaboration and explore ways to improve clinical quality.

16. On Nov. 13, the Office of Civil Rights of HHS asked for more information about Project Nightingale to ensure HIPAA was implemented appropriately within the partnership.

17. Google Health's artificial intelligence team reported that the deep learning models they developed to detect complications in chest radiographs did so with the same accuracy as radiologists. The results were published in Radiology, and the study's authors published a blog post cautioning that their findings didn't mean AI should replace radiologists.

18. Google recruited Jacqueline Shreibati, MD, CMO of wearables startup AliveCor, to its team in December. Dr. Shreibati joined Google's clinical research group and will assist with its research efforts.

More articles on health IT:
Providence CIO: Healthcare must overcome 'technical debt' to expand innovation
How a Colorado hospital's IT department prevented a ransomware attack
20 things to know about Epic, Cerner heading into 2020 


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