The tech giant plans to bring its unique services to the healthcare industry.

We have Google Drive, Google Adwords, and now…Google Healthcare? Google is looking to join other tech giants in the healthcare industry. While Apple and Amazon have made their paths toward establishing a presence in this sector, Google is just in the beginning stages of carving out its journey.

“The big-picture reason that a lot of these tech companies are getting into healthcare now is because the market is too big, too important, and much too personal to their users for them to ignore,” said John Pendergass, Associate Director of Healthcare Investment at Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

Google Healthcare

How is Google working toward entering the healthcare industry space? By exploring how it can bring its general mission—organizing information and making it universally accessible—to the healthcare industry. More specifically, the company is developing tools to improve both the accuracy and availability of medical providers and clinicians.

With the use of Google’s Cloud Healthcare API and Cloud Genomics API, it’s slowly moving toward making artificial intelligence and machine learning as efficient and essential in healthcare as they are in everyday life. This may seem like a concept that will be attainable in the future, but Google believes the time is now.

Cloud Genomics API

“Machine learning is mature enough to start accurately predicting medical events—such as whether patients will be hospitalized, how long they will stay, and whether their health is deteriorating despite treatment for conditions such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, or heart failure,” said Katherine Chou, Google Brain Team Researcher.

But what step is Google taking to get to that point? The creation of Cloud Genomics API, for one, is a major element.

Google, along with its parent company Alphabet Inc, is focusing on new ways to collect and activate data in the name of healthcare services. In the last year, Google has turned its focus on investments like Verily, its life sciences sector, to put its Cloud Genomics API to use. Verily’s Project Baseline, which is meant to help accomplish the life science community’s goal of mapping out the world’s genomic information, was launched just last year.

The Project Baseline platform will:

  • Survey 10,000 participants over four years
  • Partner with Duke University and Stanford Medicine
  • Identify a baseline for good health
  • Identify risk factors for diseases
  • Look at traditional health data, censor data, molecular data, the microbiome, and patient reported outcomes
  • Create the infrastructure to not only work on current health problems for patients, but future ones as well

Additionally, Google’s Cloud Genomics API makes this project possible through its features:

  • Interoperability
  • Security and compliance
  • Fully integrated
  • High scalability
  • Real-time data processing

Cloud Healthcare API

Building the necessary infrastructure is also the focus of Google’s new Cloud Healthcare API, which is designed to address the interoperability challenges in healthcare data. This new API is the solution for creating a strong infrastructure, which can be built upon as more data is gathered. This will allow healthcare providers and clinicians around the world to manage and ingest healthcare data types such as FHIR, HL7, and DICOM. The API also allows customers to use the data for machine learning and analytics via the cloud.

The Cloud Healthcare API is also intended to predict and prevent healthcare-associated issues such as infections, hospital readmissions, and medication errors. The HL7, for example, can essentially make data easier to access by automating data exchange and standardization. It’s currently being tested through a partnership between Google Brain and UC San Francisco, Stanford Medicine, and University of Chicago Medicine.

“As part of this research, our healthcare partners ensured that patient data was appropriately de-identified prior to sharing,” said Chou. “We then used Google Cloud’s infrastructure to keep the data stored securely with the highest level of protections and to strictly follow HIPAA privacy rules. The records are kept separate from consumer data and will only be used in our partnership research projects.”

The general idea behind the API is to provide an easy platform through which healthcare providers and patients can share medical data such as imaging in computer-relatable formats or lab results.

“Next to genomics, medical images are one of the fastest growing data sources in the healthcare space,” said Gregory J. Moore, Vice President of Healthcare at Google Cloud.

Companies Collaborating with Google Healthcare

google and healthcare, collaboration

In efforts to further its work on Google Healthcare services, the company has announced multiple partnerships with health IT vendors.

Change Healthcare

As Moore stated, medical imaging is one of the data sources that’s on the rise, and because of that rise, Google has partnered with Change Healthcare, a provider of enterprise imaging solutions. Through this partnership, Google Healthcare aims to make access to medical images a flexible process for clinicians.

“By combining Change Healthcare’s clinical expertise and industry knowledge with our strengths in the areas of cloud infrastructure, advanced analytics and collaboration tools, we aim to meaningfully impact outcomes for patients and care providers,” said Moore.

lifeIMAGE, Nautilus Medical, and Ambra Health

Around 400 petabytes of imaging data is produced annually, according to Juliet Van Wagenen of Healthtech Magazine, and Google’s interest to leverage the Cloud’s global footprint lead to a partnership with lifeIMAGE, Nautilus Medican, and Ambra Health.

Through this partnership, Google Healthcare aims to make the process of sharing medical images more workflow and clinician friendly. These companies will allow Google Cloud to help their customers effectively manage IT risk while performing at scale.

Quartet Partnership

Google has partnered with Quartet to help digitize mental health services on a larger scale. Quartet is a company that specializes in this type of care and calls on machine learning to collaborate with specialists to effectively diagnose mental health conditions and connect patients with the appropriate care.

Medical Data Challenge

Additionally, Google is working with the American Medical Association to foster innovation among startups. Its goal is to award the top three entrants who come up with the best ideas for health monitoring devices and data sharing.

They are looking for startups that offer groundbreaking ideas on how to use a wearable device or mobile app that improves the process of data sharing between a patient with a chronic disease and their healthcare provider. Google Healthcare hopes the creations that come from this competition will also maximize physician workflow, reduce healthcare costs, and improve clinical outcomes.

The results that may come from the competition and partnerships point to a promising future for Google healthcare.

“We’ve been excited to see our customers and technology partners use Google Cloud services and tools to uncover powerful insights that may help drive better patient care and facilitate better collaboration among care providers,” added Moore.