Mayo Clinic taps Google Cloud as strategic partner to accelerate innovation in AI, analytics and digital tools

Mayo Clinic has entered into a 10-year strategic partnership with Google to use the tech giant's cloud platform to accelerate innovation through digital technologies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Rochester, Minn.-based hospital said it selected Google Cloud to be the cornerstone of its "digital transformation." As part of the collaboration, Mayo Clinic will store patient data in the cloud and use advanced cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to advance the diagnosis and treatment of disease, hospital executives said in a press release.

"Data-driven medical innovation is growing exponentially, and our partnership with Google will help us lead the digital transformation in health care," Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, said in a statement. "It will empower us to solve some of the most complex medical problems; better anticipate the needs of people we serve; and meet them when, where and how they need us. We will share our knowledge and expertise globally while caring for people locally and always do it with a human touch."

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai said healthcare is one of the most important fields that technology will help transform over the next decade, and it's a major area of investment for the company.

As digital tools, AI and machine learning continue to play a larger role in healthcare, Mayo Clinic is turning to a large vendor like Google to do the heavy lifting when it comes to technology.

Google brings capabilities in data science, research and artificial intelligence, Steve Peters, M.D., a pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic, said in a video announcing the partnership. "That opens a lot of doors that aren’t available to us now," he said.

Mayo Clinic wants to use technology to better manage patients post-surgery and after doctor's appointments using wearables and devices in the home, and the partnership with Google will help to advance those technology tools.

"Direct patient-physician contact will remain essential as well as surgery and procedural practice. But increasingly we’ll be looking for tools that allow us to manage patients with chronic conditions and complex diseases where follow-up is necessary but a patient would not need to take a long trip back to Rochester," Peters said.

Partnerships between health systems and tech companies are becoming fairly common as the healthcare industry pushes forward to use data analytics and machine learning to improve clinical diagnosis and better predict disease. Providence St. Joseph Health recently announced a multiyear strategic alliance with Microsoft to modernize its health IT infrastructure and leverage cloud and artificial intelligence technologies.

But questions have been raised about the use of patient data in these healthcare-tech partnerships. The University of Chicago, its medical center and Google were sued in a potential class-action lawsuit accusing the hospital of sharing hundreds of thousands of patient records with the tech giant that retained identifiable date stamps and doctors' notes. The lawsuit underscores concerns about patient privacy.

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Christopher Ross, M.D., Mayo Clinic's chief information officer, said the Google partnership will make healthcare data more available to researchers and scientists to drive more breakthroughs. "More data will drive more cures," which benefits patients, Ross said in the video.

By moving to a cloud-based environment and using Google's data security expertise, Mayo Clinic is taking steps to improve the security and privacy of patient data, Ross said. "The goal is to begin to move data into the cloud environment as soon as we can possibly can and we'll be doing that with a team of Google and Mayo engineers," he said.

Patients' needs are changing as they expect healthcare experiences to be on par with their experiences with other industries, Ross said. "They expect the same experience as when they book an airline trip. They are looking for convenience, speed, immediacy, availability and high touch," he said.

Mayo Clinic will use Google technology to develop virtual care with AI-enabled digital diagnostics and to boost its ability to conduct medical research, the hospital said.

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"We're proud to partner with the Mayo Clinic in its mission to bring the best health care to every patient. By pairing the Mayo Clinic's world-class clinical expertise with our capabilities in AI and cloud computing, we have an extraordinary opportunity to develop services that will significantly improve lives," Google's Pichai said in a statement.

Mayo Clinic said it will retain control of access and use of its patient data. The hospital could opt to share de-identified data with Google or other organizations for research purposes, hospital leaders said.