Google announced slew of new health initiatives on Tuesday, including bolstering Search to help Medicaid enrollees during redeterminations, an updated version of its medical artificial intelligence that can answer clinical questions and a digital health app development infrastructure.
Among the other announcements during the tech giant’s annual healthcare event, Google said it will make Medicaid information easier to find on Search for people looking to re-enroll once states resume their eligibility checks. The checks, which were paused during the COVID-19 public health emergency, will resume in April and could cause some 18 million Americans to lose Medicaid coverage.
When consumers search for a Medicaid-related term on Google, they’ll see a new Renewal tab which will include results on the renewal guidelines in their state, and other information on Medicaid like contact information or the log-in to their state portal. The update will roll out it in the coming weeks, according to a spokesperson.
Google also plans to highlight providers that are community health centers offering free or low-cost care on search, building on a search engine feature that shows consumers available appointment times for select providers.
Google frequently cites data that most people use the internet first when checking symptoms or researching medical information. In late 2021, the company wove additional information into practices’ business profiles, including whether they accept Medicare and what languages they offer services in.
Google launched the booking functionality last year. It shows appointments for CVS MinuteClinics and links with scheduling tools like Kyruus and Stericycle so their provider users can integrate their appointment times into the search engine.
The bookings functionality only shows appointments at specific practices and does not aggregate across providers.
On Tuesday, Google said it was expanding the network of qualified partners in the U.S. who can show their appointment availability directly on Search, and make it simpler for them to self-onboard, in the coming months.
AI and app development
Google also announced a number of updates to AI projects.
In partnership with Mayo Clinic, Google has been testing how AI can support planning for radiotherapy, a common cancer treatment. Google said it will soon publish research on the findings of a study into AI’s efficacy in “contouring,” a process where clinicians draw lines on a CT scan to separate healthy tissue from areas of cancer that can take up to seven hours for one patient.
Google and Mayo Clinic are also formalizing their partnership to explore further research, along with model development and commercialization, according to Greg Corrado, who leads health AI at Google.
Also on the AI front, Google has invested in medical large language model research to develop AI tools that can retrieve medical information and accurately answer medical questions. Its model, called Med-PaLM, recently performed at an “expert” doctor level on medical exam questions, scoring 85%. That’s an 18% improvement from Med-PALM’s previous performance and a result that “far surpasses similar AI models,” Corrado wrote in a blog post on the news.
However, there’s more work to be done to ensure Med-PaLM will work in real-world settings, said Alan Karthikesalingam, a research lead at Google. An evaluation of the AI found significant gaps when it comes to the complexity of medical questions answered and meeting product excellence standards.
Google also announced a number of new partners for AI research, including Kenya-based nonprofit Jacaranda Health on ultrasound delivery for expectant mothers, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan on ultrasound for breast cancer detection and nonprofit Right to Care on AI-powered chest x-ray screening to help with tuberculosis in Africa.
The tech giant introduced a suite of open-source infrastructure built on an interoperable data standard to make it easier for developers to quickly build healthcare apps.
Despite disbanding its health-specific unit in 2021, Google has remained active in the healthcare industry, launching tools to help healthcare companies make their medical images more actionable through AI and machine learning and inking a deal with major EHR vendor Meditech to embed its clinical software tools into the records of U.S. hospitals.
Google has also recently launched new products like Device Connect for Fitbit, an integration between Google Cloud and Google’s wearables business that launched in September, and a new app, called Health Connect.
Google’s cloud business has also linked with EHR giant Epic to build an offering that will allow clients to run their Epic workloads on Google Cloud, and launched three new healthcare data engine accelerators to address common pain points for health systems.