Google deepens its healthcare presence: A timeline of the last year

Google has made moves to expand its presence in the healthcare sector during the last 12 months, including multiple partnerships with health systems, several new product launches and efforts to facilitate the country's COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Below is a timeline of Google's key healthcare moves reported by Becker's Hospital Review since June 2020.

June 18, 2020: Google sister company Verily developed a program to help employees and students safely return to offices and shared spaces while monitoring for COVID-19. The program, dubbed Healthy at Work, is powered by Verily's software and COVID-19 testing infrastructure.

July 14, 2020: Google announced BigQuery Omni, which allows clients to use Google's serverless cloud data warehouse BigQuery for data stored in Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Previously, BigQuery, which analyzes data, runs analytics and creates business insights for users, could only be run on data stored in Google Cloud.

July 31, 2020: Google began updating its COVID-19 contact tracing framework, developed in partnership with Apple, to address users' concerns that Android devices' location settings have to be turned on for the Exposure Notification app to work.

Aug. 3, 2020: Google Cloud AI partnered with the Harvard Global Health Institute to develop the COVID-19 Public Forecasts, a dashboard that provides 13-day projections for hospitalizations and death rates across all 50 states. To develop the dashboard, Google Cloud researchers used a novel time series machine-learning approach combining artificial intelligence with epidemiology.

Aug. 20, 2020: Google's AI-focused venture fund co-led a $15 million investment round for patient engagement solutions company Klara. The platform integrates with hospital EHR and practice management systems to automate workflows across the patient's care journey, including scheduling, pre-visit instructions, reminders and no-show engagement. 

Aug. 24, 2020: Google Cloud partnered with Amwell and invested $100 million in the telehealth company to scale up its offerings for providers, insurers and patients. Under the partnership, the two companies utilize machine learning technologies to automate waiting room and checkout processes, offer automated language translation services, assist payers and providers' routine tasks, triage clinical workflows, and lessen clinician fatigue.

Aug. 25, 2020: Verily established Coefficient Insurance Co., a subsidiary to apply technology and data-driven solutions to employer-sponsored stop-loss insurance. Coefficient uses Verily hardware, software and data science to detect unexpected cost volatility and cover them to reduce exposure. 

On the same day, Google Health and 24 other health IT companies joined the Consumer Technology Association's initiative to establish standards for the use of digital therapeutics. 

Sept. 2, 2020: The Defense Innovation Unit selected Google Cloud to develop a prototype for an AI-enabled digital pathology tool that will help Military Health System physicians with cancer detection tasks. The project aims to improve the accuracy of cancer and other disease diagnoses as well as help physicians manage large volumes of data when making diagnostic and treatment decisions.

Sept. 10, 2020: Google committed more than $8.5 million to 31 organizations to further AI and data analytics efforts focused on understanding the spread of COVID-19 as well as the impact on healthcare workers and vulnerable communities.

On the same day, awarded $500,000 to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to analyze how COVID-19 modifies gene expression in some people in ways that may cause severe illness and death.

Oct. 28, 2020: Google Health partnered with Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic on a new initiative to boost radiation therapy planning with AI. Under the partnership, Mayo's radiation therapy experts work with Google Health's experts on applying AI to medical imaging for patients with cancers in the head and neck area.

Nov. 10, 2020: Google launched new AI tools for healthcare providers to search through medical documentation. The tools aim to reduce burnout and increase back-office and clinical practice productivity.

Nov. 30, 2020: Google Cloud unveiled a program to help payers, providers and healthcare organizations prepare for HHS' interoperability regulations.

Dec. 2, 2020: Google began piloting a tool developed with HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that aims to help people remember important questions they want to ask their physician during their healthcare visits.

Dec. 3, 2020: Meditech tapped Google Cloud to deploy its new cloud-based, subscription model EHR platform. The new offering includes several new capabilities, including the mobility app Expanse Now, which allows physicians to manage tasks, messages and coordinate care from their smartphone. 

Dec. 17, 2020: Highmark Health, the parent company of Allegheny Health Network, entered into a strategic partnership with Google Cloud for its technology-driven healthcare model, Living Health. The partnership will develop a secure and scalable platform on Google Cloud and apply advanced analytic and AI capabilities to Highmark's clinical and technology capabilities.

Jan. 12, 2021: The Google News Initiative launched a $3 million fund to bolster journalistic projects combating misinformation about COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Jan. 14, 2021: Google completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, furthering its efforts to improve its wearables division. 

Jan. 25, 2021: Google detailed 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. 1, 2021: Google Cloud began offering healthcare organizations its new Intelligent Vaccine Impact Solution, which is a digital toolset that delivers data insights on COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.

On the same day, Google Cloud partnered with medical technology company Hologic to integrate its machine learning technology into Hologic's cervical cancer diagnostic screening system.

Feb. 4, 2021: Google Fit announced it will launch new features allowing users to measure heart rate and respiratory rate with the Pixel phone's camera.

Feb. 12, 2021: Google Cloud partnered with the University of Minnesota to create an education program for students pursuing healthcare careers. The program, called NXT GEN MED, will be offered to students pursuing the university's health sciences bachelor's degree and will reduce almost two years from the traditional four-year degree timeline. Students will be matched with a professional from Mayo Clinic, who will act as their mentor and share with them relevant career experiences and support.

Feb. 18, 2021: A Star Tribune report revealed that Google is planning to open its first office in Minnesota as part of its ongoing health partnership with Mayo Clinic. The new office, located at Collider Coworking in downtown Rochester, is expected to open in 2021 and will employ a "solid handful" of people.

Feb. 23, 2021: Google and Ascension continued the collaboration they began in 2018 by rolling out a tool to help clinicians better organize and search for patient information. The new tool, called Care Studio, allows clinicians to quickly search through information from both inpatient and outpatient Ascension facilities. It also presents the searched-for information alongside other contextually relevant information so that clinicians do not spend extra time locating those records.

March 2, 2021: Highmark Health built upon its tech partnership with Google Cloud by launching a six-year collaboration with Verily. Under the new partnership, 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. 

March 9, 2021: Google Cloud made its new healthcare consent management application programming interface generally available for health tech developers and clinical researchers who work with patients' health data. The API helps health data users more easily meet the requirements of existing and emergency privacy and consent frameworks while maintaining transparent incorporation of digital health data into patient care and research.

April 1, 2021: Verily teamed up with Morehouse College to provide scholarships to students interested in STEM with the goal to create an institutional link between students and the biotech and life sciences industry. 

April 9, 2021: A STAT report revealed Google is in the early stages of a new project that aims to explore and develop a new consumer-facing health records tool for Android users. 

April 15, 2021: Google committed $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.

On the same day, Google Cloud launched 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. The virtual agents direct users to local resources, locate local vaccine sites and provide guidance on the registration process. They can also answer questions, assist with scheduling and registration, and send follow-up reminders.

April 20, 2021: Google detailed plans to establish a new certification program for health insurance advertisers in the U.S.

April 27, 2021: Henry Ford Health System partnered with Google Cloud and Miracle Software Systems to launch an international competition in Detroit to propose ideas for reducing health inequalities using technology.

May 11, 2021: A report from The Wall Street Journal revealed that Google plans to double the size of its AI ethics team in the next few years, following controversy over Google's treatment of whistleblowers critical of its AI approach. The AI ethics team will grow to 200 researchers, and the team's operating budget will be increased, as well as be tasked with evaluating code and products to curb discrimination issues in AI.

May 18, 2021: Google announced its AI tool that can classify skin conditions. The tool took three years to launch because of variables in the way 288 skin conditions present themselves on 45 different body parts, with different skin colors and six different skin types.

On the same day, Google teamed up with Northwestern Medicine to develop an AI tool to support clinician work by triaging mammography patients.

May 26, 2021: HCA Healthcare inked 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.

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