Google looks to break into healthcare with data driven predictions
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Google looks to break into healthcare with data driven predictions

Google, the alphabet-owned internet giant synonymous with its search engine and renowned as a market leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and innovation, is making headway in a new area: healthcare. Well, not really new – the company has been interested in health for years – but a powerful type of algorithm is letting it explore new horizons in the medical field. And according to at least one anonymous Google employee: “they’ve finally found a new application for AI that has commercial promise.”

Alphabet’s share price has appreciated by 11% so far this year

graph 2006 google

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

In May, Google researchers reported on the death of a woman who was admitted to a city hospital “with late-stage breast cancer”. The hospital, after consultations and monitoring, reported a 9.3% chance that she would pass away during her stay. Google’s new algorithm, which scoured the woman’s medical history and found 175,639 data points to consider, suggested the risk of death was much higher, at 19.9%. A few days later, she passed away. The greater accuracy of Google’s algorithm over current diagnostic methods, says the research, highlights “the healthcare potential of neural networks.”

Neural networks are a form of AI that specialises in using data to automatically learn and improve. And Google has used them to create a suite of tools that can forecast numerous patient outcomes, including how long people could stay in hospital, the chances they’ll be readmitted at a later date, and the likelihood that they will soon die. The medical experts are impressed, and Google’s new tools could be transformative for the healthcare sector.

Some of the ways that algorithms like this can help doctors and hospitals are straightforward: medical professionals can spend far less time sifting through paperwork to create sensible diagnoses, and the lightening-fast predictions that AI is now capable of making are more accurate anyway. The opportunity for stretched medical sectors around the world is huge: more time for patient care, and the possibility of applying more suitable types of treatment, such as palliative care.

Despite the incredible power of these tools, investors shouldn’t expect to see them in hospitals around the world any time soon. Lily Peng, a member of the segment working in this area (Medical Brain) stressed: “this is really early on.” Despite that, there’s every reason to expect that Google may well end up revolutionising another industry for the better.


Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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