Google Announces New Generative AI Search Capabilities For Doctors

Google Cloud unveiled new AI-driven search capabilities designed to assist healthcare professionals in swiftly retrieving accurate clinical information from various medical records. The healthcare sector houses extensive valuable data, but its scattered storage across multiple systems and formats can be an obstacle for clinicians. Google Cloud’s innovative search tool enables doctors to extract data from clinical notes, scanned documents, and electronic health records, consolidating it into a single accessible location. This innovation is expected to significantly save time and enhance efficiency for healthcare workers.

Lisa O’Malley, Senior Director of Product Management for Cloud AI at Google Cloud, highlighted the advantages of this technology, saying, “While it should save time to be able to do that search, it should also prevent frustration on behalf of clinicians and [make] sure that they get to an answer easier.”

With these new capabilities, healthcare professionals can bypass the cumbersome process of sifting through separate notes, faxes, and electronic health records to obtain patient histories. Instead, they can perform specific searches like “What medications has this patient taken in the last 12 months?” and access the relevant information seamlessly.

Furthermore, Google’s search features have broader applications, including accurate billing code assignment and assessing patient eligibility for clinical trials. To address concerns about data accuracy, the technology can trace and link information back to its original source within an organization’s internal data, mitigating doubts about AI-generated responses.

Picture: Bloomberg

These search capabilities are particularly valuable in the context of the healthcare industry, where staffing shortages and excessive administrative work are prevalent. A 2016 study sponsored by the American Medical Association revealed that for every hour physicians spent with patients, they dedicated an additional two hours to administrative tasks. This study also indicated that physicians spent an extra one to two hours on clerical work outside of their regular working hours, commonly referred to as “pajama time.” Additionally, a January 2022 survey by Medscape reported that 53% of physicians experienced burnout, up from 42% in 2018.

Google aims to alleviate these burdens by reducing the time clinicians spend searching through records and databases. Lisa O’Malley expressed the company’s commitment to benefiting patients by making healthcare processes more efficient, stating, “Anything that Google can do by applying our search technologies, our health-care technologies and research capabilities to make the journey of the clinicians and health-care providers and payers more quick, more efficient, saving them cost, I think ultimately benefits us as patients.”

The new search functionalities will be accessible to health and life sciences organizations through Google’s Vertex AI Search platform, an extension of the existing Healthcare API and Healthcare Data Engine products. Aashima Gupta, Global Director of Health Care Strategy and Solutions at Google Cloud, emphasized the importance of seamlessly integrating these capabilities into clinicians’ workflows, ensuring they do not disrupt established routines.

Recognizing the healthcare industry’s historical reluctance to embrace new technology, Google has prioritized providing solutions that are user-friendly and unobtrusive to healthcare workers. Gupta stressed that they are cautious not to introduce friction into healthcare professionals’ daily workflows while empowering them with technology.
While customers can sign up for early access to Vertex AI Search for healthcare and life sciences, Google Cloud has already conducted tests with healthcare organizations such as Mayo Clinic, Hackensack Meridian Health, and Highmark Health.

Mayo Clinic, for example, is initially employing the Vertex AI Search tools for administrative purposes rather than clinical care. Cris Ross, Mayo’s Chief Information Officer, emphasized the organization’s cautious approach, stating that they will only integrate these tools into patient care when they are confident of their readiness.
In the future, Mayo Clinic envisions leveraging Vertex AI Search to assist nurses in summarizing lengthy surgical notes, managing complex medical histories, and rapidly answering specific patient-related queries. However, the organization is taking a gradual approach to assess where Google’s AI solutions can be most beneficial.
Richard Clarke, Chief Analytics Officer at Highmark Health, reported a positive initial response to the search tools within the organization, with more than 200 use-case ideas in the backlog. However, similar to Mayo Clinic, Highmark Health recognizes the challenge of prioritizing and scaling the technology while building trust among employees.

Despite these promising early signs, Google Cloud remains cautious in its deployment strategy, focusing on small-scale implementation with dedicated support. The aim is to ensure that the technology aligns with the unique needs and workflows of healthcare providers.

It’s important to note that Google Cloud does not access customer data for training models, and the service complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to safeguard patient data.

Aashima Gupta, Global Director of Health Care Strategy and Solutions at Google Cloud, expressed excitement about the potential of Google’s tools to create a more comprehensive and cohesive healthcare experience. She highlighted the role of AI in connecting the dots from a patient’s perspective, making practical use cases in healthcare more feasible.

Google Cloud’s introduction of AI-driven search capabilities has the potential to streamline healthcare workflows, reduce administrative burdens on clinicians, and enhance the overall patient experience. By making it easier for healthcare professionals to access and utilize critical clinical information, Google aims to contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare industry while respecting established workflows and data security standards.

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