HIMSS24: Google Cloud builds out generative AI solutions to aid healthcare workers

ORLANDO — Generative AI continues to be a big buzzword in 2024 as tech companies see the potential to use the technology to alleviate administrative drudgery for healthcare workers.

Google Cloud is using its tech muscle to build out generative AI capabilities for healthcare and life sciences companies to help offload administrative burden and support assistive technology for clinicians.

The company announced Tuesday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2024 Global Conference and Exhibition the latest updates to its artificial intelligence-powered search capabilities. Google Cloud's Vertex AI Search for Healthcare enables medically-tuned, gen AI search on a broad spectrum of data, including FHIR data and clinical notes, the company said.

These search and question-answering capabilities now integrate with MedLM, healthcare data engine (HDE) and cloud healthcare FHIR APIs, making it easier for healthcare and life science organizations to build advanced data analytics and AI solutions, executives said.

MedLM is a family of foundation models fine-tuned for healthcare industry use cases.

Google is leveraging its tech expertise to rapidly bring AI and cloud capabilities to healthcare, seeing opportunities to use tech to help address issues like workforce shortages, provider burnout and administrative burden.

Healthcare organizations face rising administrative costs coupled with increased rates of physician burnout and clinical shortages. Google Cloud sees an opportunity for healthcare providers, payers, electronic health records companies and life science companies to build gen AI solutions that help healthcare workers and other employees to work more efficiently and effectively, the company said. 

Google Cloud says its Vertex AI Search for Healthcare enables medically-tuned searches grounded in the patient record, so it searches electronic health record (EHR) data, scanned documents and other clinical data. This enables healthcare applications to surface the most relevant information to clinicians, without the need to click through hundreds of pages of notes or toggle between different screens and applications, Google Cloud executives said.

The combination of these technologies enables healthcare organizations to find the most relevant answers to complex medical questions both from MedLM as well as within the patient’s medical record. 

The search tool also features configurable cloud APIs and data platform integration, executives said. 

“Not all generative AI is created equal, and in healthcare, the stakes are particularly high,” said Aashima Gupta, global director for healthcare strategy and solutions at Google Cloud, in a statement. “Healthcare organizations require enterprise-grade gen AI solutions, grounded in real data. Vertex AI Search for Healthcare is already making a difference for healthcare organizations by helping ensure clinicians have the right information and insights at the right time to inform decisions and improve the overall quality of patient care.”

The ability to quickly locate information within EHRs is a well-documented problem today, according to Helen Waters, Meditech's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "Meditech's vision to embed search within the Expanse workflows allows us to leverage Google Clould's AI capabilities to ease this burden. We will continue to empower clinicians with cutting-edge decision-making tools and enable clinician efficiency."

Google Cloud also unveiled two new MedLM capabilities for Google Cloud customers to explore and test. One gen AI model can help with classification of chest X-rays for operational, screening and diagnostics use cases. It is a domain-specialized model, launched as an application programming interface (API) that converts chest x-ray images into embeddings, according to the company.

The second new capability is a task-specific API called condition summary that aims to provide a chronological list of patient conditions, along with AI-generated briefs about each condition, with citations from original text.

In the coming months, Google Cloud plans to bring additional functionality to the MedLM suite to offer even more capabilities.

And, the tech giant also unveiled new consumption-priced managed service of its healthcare data engine designed to help healthcare organizations build data platforms. Google Cloud customers can now deploy HDE as a consumption-priced, pay-as-you-go, managed service, which opens up the product to more healthcare organizations, the company said.

Google Cloud also will expand HDE beyond North America, and roll out globally to most cloud regions in Europe and in the Asia Pacific.