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Google Cloud is partnering with Mayo Clinic as it tries to expand use of generative A.I. in health care

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the Google I/O developers conference at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, May 10, 2023.

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Google’s cloud business is expanding its use of new artificial intelligence technologies in health care, giving medical professionals at Mayo Clinic the ability to quickly find patient information using the types of tools powering the latest chatbots.

On Wednesday, Google Cloud said Mayo Clinic is testing a new service called Enterprise Search on Generative AI App Builder, which was introduced Tuesday. The tool effectively lets clients create their own chatbots using Google’s technology to scour mounds of disparate internal data.

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In health care, that means workers can interpret data such as a patient’s medical history, imaging records, genomics or labs more quickly and with a simple query, even if the information is stored across different formats and locations. Mayo Clinic, one of the top hospital systems in the U.S. with dozens of locations, is an early adopter of the technology for Google, which is trying to bolster the use of generative AI in the medical system.

Mayo Clinic will test out different use cases for the search tool in the coming months, and Vish Anantraman, chief technology officer at Mayo Clinic, said it has already been “very fulfilling” for helping clinicians with administrative tasks that often contribute to burnout.

For instance, if a physician needs to see information about a cohort of female patients aged 45 through 55, including their mammograms and medical charts, they can enter that query into the search tool instead of seeking out each element separately. Similarly, if a physician needs to know which clinical trials a patient may match, they can search for that, too.

“It’s going to save a lot of time, it’s going to prevent physician burnout, it’s going to reduce administrative overload,” Anantraman told CNBC in an interview.

Generative AI has been the hottest topic in tech since late 2022, when Microsoft-backed OpenAI released the chatbot ChatGPT to the public. Google raced to catch up, rolling out its Bard AI chat service earlier this year and pushing to embed the underlying technology into as many products as possible. Health care is a particularly challenging industry, because there’s less room for incorrect answers or hallucinations, which occur when AI models fabricate information entirely.

Aashima Gupta, global director of health care strategy and solutions at Google Cloud, said Google is taking a “safety over speed” approach with its Enterprise Search tool, which is why the company has limited it to select early adopters like Mayo Clinic instead of rolling it out more broadly.

“We want to be very thoughtful and responsible in how we leverage such a powerful tool like generative AI in an enterprise setting, especially in health care,” Gupta told CNBC in an interview.

Google said its approach to privacy ensures customers retain control over their data and noted the new service is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Anantraman said Mayo Clinic has created “safe sandboxes” for workers to test applications of the technology and identify where it can be the most helpful.

“We take privacy of patient data very, very seriously, and our needs of our patients come first,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons health care has to be very cautious in general as an industry in adopting technology that may not be fully tested, may not be fully vetted.”

Google Cloud and Mayo Clinic signed a 10-year partnership in 2019. Mayo said at the time it selected Google Cloud to be the “cornerstone of its digital transformation.” The partnership announced Wednesday is the first step in an expanded agreement between the two companies to work together on AI applications in health care.

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