Google is Leveraging AI for the Future of Healthcare

The best tech companies in the world are taking on Healthcare

Michael K. Spencer
· 6 min read

I’m bullish on Google’s Medical Brain and how it can impact the future of Healthcare. We are talking about the global leaders in deep learning here at Alphabet.

Machine learning at the intersection of healthcare data is really interesting and a pivotal industry specialization in the 2020s where radical progress will take place.

In November, 2018 it was announced Google absorbed DeepMind’s health care unit to create an ‘AI assistant for nurses and doctors’. Google’s ambitions for healthcare dwarfs Apple and will rival Amazon’s because of Google’s machine learning engineering talent.

The Predictive Analytics of Healthcare is Coming

The U.S. healthcare industry is a $3 Trillion industry. In February, 2019 it was reported that the United States Patent Office has published a patent application by Google with the goal of aggregating EHR data using the FHIR-based services to predict health events. The patent was submitted in July, 2018.

Amazon and Google are the front-runners to impact healthcare tech with honorable mentions to Tencent and Apple. In the evolution of the Cloud, AI at the intersection of healthcare is one of the hottest spaces for the future.

Google’s health-care potential of neural networks is a form of artificial intelligence software that’s particularly good at using data to automatically learn and improve.

From early diagnosis to medical records, to predicting patient outcomes and even death, artificial intelligence will be more implicated in the future in medicine than ever before.


Google’s AI could transform EMR as we know it

Electronic medical records (EMR) will have renaissance where patient data will become key and a controversial element in a disruption of healthcare by AI. Google’s deep learning systems will be at the forefront of these advances.

Google’s vision is incredible:

  • A relational database of de-identified electronic health records
  • A machine learning mechanism
  • A device for displaying predicted clinical events

This is no doubt the AI of IoT, the famous AIoT acronym hyped by companies like Xiaomi and Huawei. As Amazon consolidates the smart home, Google has (perhaps considerable) lead when it comes to deep learning & machine learning at the intersection of healthcare.

Google AI > Amazon 1492

While Amazon 1492 will impact Healthcare in ways difficult to predict, Google is essentially proposing clinical decision support to predict and influence patient behavior. Think of how radical a change this will be:

In a patent application dating back to August 2017:

  • Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), the application programming interface (APIs) and specifications, will likely play a critical role
  • In transforming raw EHR data from a relational database into a timeline of medical events.

Alphabet will have first comer advantage in owning the social graph of our healthcare data, if they play their cards right. This has incredible implications for not just the future of healthcare, saving costs but in the ethics around medical and healthcare patient data.

Google is betting that the future of healthcare is going to be structured data and AI, and at the rate Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Tencent are investing in it, we have to imagine a radically different healthcare system in the 2030s.

Broadly speaking Alphabet is also dabbling in a wide range of health-care projects across its different companies, including Verily and Calico. While Amazon acquired PillPack, and Apple has the AppleWatch device, Google needs to leverage its advantage in AI and machine learning to offer value and disrupt EMR and predictive analytics for healthcare professionals. The future workforce are humans augmented by AI in healthcare.

This is a form of automation that will impact healthcare and the demand for medical jobs. Machine learning can and will reduce costs in the sector as an aging population is quickly getting expensive for future generations to support in a shrinking labor pool where part-time is becoming the norm for many professionals.

Imagine an AI that can accurately forecast for clinicians an hospital administrators:

  • A host of patient outcomes
  • How long people will stay in hospitals
  • Patient odds of re-admission and the death risk probabilities

Imagine what companies like Amazon and Google can do with access to healthcare data. The medical futurist wrote an amusing account of what this might look like. Even he though I think underestimates the impact of AI on the future of healthcare.

Google is essentially interested in the monetization of our healthcare data via AI:

  • Applying AI to disease detection
  • Applying AI to new data infrastructure
  • Applying machine learning to how insurance in the healthcare-data-of-everything will work.

Can Tech Solve Healthcare Crisis?

On February 6th, 2019 Alphabet’s Verily unit said that’s it taking on the opioid crisis, joining with two health networks to build a tech-infused rehab campus.

  • Verily is very interesting — Verily is one of Alphabet’s “Other Bets,” and marks one of its most advanced effort in the health-care market.
  • Calico, part of the Other Bets segment, is focused on anti-aging research.
  • In November, 2018 Google hired Dr. David Feinberg to lead its healthtech division.

Google wants to see itself as more than just an advertising company and if artificial intelligence is its thing it has to prove it can use the tech for good. If it loses this battle to Amazon, it will be a serious blow to how the company can diversity and scale in the 21st century.

A Re-Design of the Patient Experience with AI

Google’s app for doctors and nurses is called Streams. A so called tool that’s “an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors” that combines “the best algorithms with intuitive design.”

DeepMind says its Streams team will remain in London and that it’s committed to carrying out ongoing work with the NHS. Google Medical Brain job postings in 2018 show how Google plans to improve touch and voice interfaces in healthcare settings as well.

Medical Brain should impact also how the “next gen clinical visit experience” takes place. These include the automatic generation of EMRs that would save doctors a lot of time. The team works with Stanford Medicine to us AI and voice recognition to implement this.

A Unified Augmented Healthcare is Coming

So what does a unified healthcare system under AI look like? “The deep learning models are trained to predict one or more future clinical events and to summarize pertinent past medical events (e.g., problems, conditions, test results, medications, etc.)” That’s rather all-encompassing. This might also explain how Alphabet could specialize in the intersection of the Cloud and Healthcare, investing mightily in both.

As CBInsights states, Alphabet seems to be going after the healthcare space from every possible angle, exploring all options. While Amazon is likely to win out on consumer facing things like telemedicine and drug logistics, Alphabet could have a much more AI-centric play here with broader and greater ramifications that scale better.

Since Google’s DeepMind group, has now recently absorbed back into Google, the Medical Brain and deep learning’s impact on healthcare will need more focus from Alphabet as opposed to these startup-esque “other bets”. To compete with the likes of Amazon and Apple that already have products and consumer trust, Google needs to work 2x as hard. Hustle beats talent, if Google’s AI talent doesn’t place smart bets on its machine-learning prowess where humanity needs it most — our health.


Discovering the optimal lifestyle of the future.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, prolific writer. LinkedIn: michaelkspencer


Discovering the optimal lifestyle of the future.