Mayo Clinic, Google Cloud partner on generative AI to power enterprise search

Mayo Clinic is collaborating with Google Cloud to supercharge search tools with generative AI.

The health system aims to use the buzzy new technology to make it easier for doctors to get access to relevant medical notes, research papers or clinical guidelines and to also help patients more easily find the information they need, the companies announced Wednesday. 

Mayo Clinic is an early adopter of Google Cloud’s Enterprise Search on Generative AI App Builder and is exploring how to harness generative AI to make a search experience that is fast, seamless and conversational, executives said.

Google Cloud developed Gen App Builder to enable organizations to quickly create custom chatbots and semantic search applications, with minimal coding needed to get started and enterprise-grade management and security built-in, according to a blog post. Google Cloud also announced Wednesday that its Gen App Builder tool is now ready to support HIPAA compliance.

The organizations said their work will start with enterprise search functions and future programs will focus on patient care and research.

The collaboration builds on Mayo Clinic's existing relationship with the tech giant. In 2019, the health system inked a 10-year strategic partnership with Google to use its cloud platform to accelerate innovation through digital technologies. The two organizations have worked together on analytics, AI and machine learning solutions. Three years ago, the two organizations announced an initiative to use artificial intelligence to improve radiation therapy planning for cancer care and to leverage cloud technologies and data analytics to advance the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

Healthcare professionals use information from various sources, but healthcare data is often stored in many different formats and locations.

Google Cloud executives say they developed the Gen App Builder to unify data across dispersed documents, databases and intranets, making it easier to search, analyze and identify the most relevant results. 

“Generative AI has the potential to transform healthcare by enhancing human interactions and automating operations like never before,” said Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud CEO in a statement. Kurian pointed to Mayo Clinic as a "critical partner" as the cloud provider identifies responsible ways to bring the technology to healthcare.

Google Cloud is collaborating with several healthcare organizations on these initiatives but the company did not name the other partners.

Mayo Clinic clinical leaders are bullish on the potential for AI and large language models to help improve workflows and make it easier for clinicians to access the information they need.

AI is not new in healthcare and organizations have used the technology to scan lots of data to identify patterns to enable greater efficiencies and improve existing work, the organizations pointed out. With generative AI, data can be reviewed in more sophisticated ways, information can be condensed and digested, and new images can be created, among other uses, executives contend. 

“Our prioritization of patient safety, privacy and ethical considerations, means that generative AI can have a significant and positive impact on how we work and deliver healthcare,” said Cris Ross, Mayo Clinic’s chief information officer, in a statement.

“Google Cloud’s tools have the potential to unlock sources of information that typically aren’t searchable in a conventional manner, or are difficult to access or interpret, from a patient’s complex medical history to their imaging, genomics, and labs. Accessing insights more quickly and easily could drive more cures, create more connections with patients, and transform healthcare," Ross said.

It's been six months since Microsoft-backed OpenAI released its generative large language model ChatGPT, followed by GPT-4 in March. Now, tech giants and startups are off to the races to test out the potential for LLMs and generative AI tools in medicine, clinical settings and research.

In April, Microsoft rolled out new generative AI tools embedded in its cloud computing capabilities. The company released a new Azure Health Bot template to enable healthcare organizations to experiment with the integration of Azure OpenAI Service into their chatbots. Microsoft also is working with EHR giant Epic to integrate large language model tools and AI into its electronic health record software.

Even startups are jumping in to harness the technology. Carbon Health debuted hands-free charting—an AI-enabled notes assistant—in its proprietary electronic health record software across each of its clinics and providers. Hippocratic AI recently launched out of stealth armed with $50 million to build out what it refers to as the first LLM for healthcare with an initial focus on non-diagnostic, patient-facing applications.

Google Cloud executives say the company's generative AI offerings build on years of research and proven applications in AI to help organizations do things like optimize workforce productivity, streamline administrative processes and automate repetitive tasks.

Partnerships between health systems and tech companies are becoming fairly common as the healthcare industry pushes forward to use cutting-edge technologies. But questions have been raised about the use of patient data in these healthcare-tech partnerships. 

Google Cloud executives tout the tech giant's data governance and privacy policies that ensure customers retain control over their data.

"In healthcare settings, access and use of patient data is appropriately protected through the implementation of Google Cloud’s reliable infrastructure and secure data storage that support HIPAA compliance, along with each customer’s security, privacy controls, and processes," executives said in a press release.

Google's cloud division is taking a "responsible approach" to generative AI and customers will have access to tools to "directly tune large language models and to review model responses for biased or unvalidated content, teaching the model to avoid inappropriate outputs," executives said.