Google Cloud, HCA team up to deploy AI in the emergency department

Earlier this year, HCA Healthcare launched a pilot program that equipped 75 emergency room physicians at four hospitals with Google’s AI technology, utilizing an ongoing partnership with Google Cloud and Augmedix, a tech company specializing in ambient medical documentation.

Now, the national provider is weighing up further expansion of the collaboration to incorporate the tech giant’s generative AI tools in more hospitals later this year.

Physicians in the pilot program used the tools to document medical information faster than ever, a gripe medical professionals have long held. The physicians use the Augmedix app, a hands-free device, to create medical notes from conversations with patients. After text-to-speech processing, the data are converted to medical notes and reviewed before being transferred to the hospital’s electronic health record.

By dedicating resources to generative AI tools, HCA Healthcare hopes physicians and nurses will have more time for patient-focused care.

“We’re on a mission to redesign the way care is delivered, letting clinicians focus on patient care, and using technology where it can best support doctors and nurses,” said Michael Schlosser, M.D., senior vice president for HCA Healthcare, in a statement. “Generative AI and other new technologies are helping us transform the ways teams interact, create better workflows, and have the right team, at the right time, empowered with the information they need for our patients.”

Specialists with HCA Healthcare, Google Cloud and Augmedix said in a press release they will continue to improve the product, but physicians have already said they like the new tools, including the ability to generate handoff reports between nurses which is still being refined at UCF Lake Nona Hospital.

“HCA Healthcare is a leader in care delivery, and our expanded partnership has the potential to benefit the entire healthcare industry,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud. “Bringing generative AI into solutions that support doctors and nurses can significantly improve their day-to-day experiences and help them focus on what matters most—caring for patients.”

Within a month of COVID-19 impacting American life, HCA Healthcare first partnered with Google Cloud to open up a pandemic data portal that pools hospital metrics on ICU beds, testing results and patient visits. In 2021, the two parties announced a strategic partnership to create a data analytics platform that included safeguards to protect patient privacy and data security.

A year later, HCA Healthcare agreed to deploy MEDITECH Expanse, a digital EHR platform.

New LLM could be deployed

HCA Healthcare is also contemplating beginning to employ Google’s medical large language model called Med-PaLM 2. The model is designed to summarize insights from medical texts, and Google is hoping to add “multimodal competency” to allow the technology to synthesize information from x-rays and mammograms.

“Having an LLM tailored for medical questions and content could be beneficial for certain critical use cases,” said Schlosser. “We expect Med-PaLM 2 will be especially useful when we’re asking complex medical questions that are grounded on scientific and medical knowledge, while looking for insights in complicated and unstructured medical texts.”

Google’s LLM has performed highly in medical testing situations and excels in “advanced reasoning tasks, including code and math, classification and question answering, translation and multilingual proficiency and natural language generation,” according to Google.

“Careful consideration will need to be given to the ethical deployment of this technology including rigorous quality assessment in different clinical settings with guardrails to mitigate against risks,” Google said in a self-published study. “For example, the potential harms of using a LLM for diagnosing or treating an illness are much greater than using a LLM for information about a disease or medication.”

Other large health companies have also begun using Google’s AI tools including Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Meditech, Huma and Infinitus Systems Inc.