Where Google could go next in healthcare

Google has taken the lead in massive data analytics and artificial intelligence research, a possible indicator of where the company is headed in healthcare, according to a new report from CB Insights.

Google Brain developed the most popular deep learning framework, TensorFlow, and the company has continued to pioneer innovations and collaborations in healthcare during the pandemic.

The company also entered into a high-profile partnership with Apple to develop an interoperable API designed to measure contact tracing with Bluetooth technology in smartphones. Three states began using the API in contact-tracing apps when it was launched May 20, and several other states have inquired about the technology. Google and Apple maintain that the app won't be able to use GPS data to identify user location.

Google's Verily launched the Baseline COVID-19 research project in May, which aims to study testing methods and antibodies as well as how the virus is affecting mental health.

According to CB Insights, Google Health Vice President David Feinberg, MD, "is focusing his efforts on Google's core expertise in search, looking to make it easier for doctors to search medical records and improve the quality of health-related search results for consumers across Google and YouTube."

The company has also focused on making EHR searches and workflows easier to navigate. It partnered with Ascension in 2018, which became the first health system to implement the PatientSearch pilot tool. However, the partners also fell under public scrutiny in late 2019 after it was revealed in a Wall Street Journal report that Google was allowed to collect data from the health system through a business associate agreement.

Going forward, it looks as though Google will continue to refine the search experience for healthcare education.


During the pandemic several institutions have adapted technologies to support remote learning. YouTube already hosts hundreds of thousands of healthcare videos, according to the report, and Google's education app, Socratic, incorporates those videos with artificial reality-enabled glasses that surgeons can use to train on medical devices.

The company could also improve the search experience for healthcare researchers. Google provides open-sourced deep learning tools for researchers, including the genomic analysis tool DeepVariant. The GV portfolio company Owkin is using federated learning for secure data sharing in healthcare searches.

Most recently, Google has also turned its attention to mental health. It partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Health to launch a user function for anyone who searches for information about anxiety to address mental health concerns and stress during the pandemic.

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