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    India to Enhance Digital Healthcare with Google’s AI Tools via Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission

    What’s the news:

    Apurva Chandra, Union Health Secretary, met with Dr Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer, Google at a side event of the 77th World Health Assembly of WHO in Geneva to discuss easier accessibility of Google’s digital health tools for Indian residents via Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM).

    India keen to use more Google tools in healthcare

    Chandra discussed the engagement between Google Research and the Union Health Ministry, potential future collaborations in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, and sought Google’s support for the ABDM. She emphasized building more digital health tools like Automated Retinal Disease Assessment (ARDA) and integrating them with ABDM. The ARDA tool was listed on ABDM under the Open Call for Expression of Interest (EoI) in 2022 when the Google team worked with India’s National Health Authority (NHA) to create a digital health ecosystem in India.

    “Google Research and NHA have also been working on the development of an open-sourced ABDM wrapper to simplify ABDM sandbox integration process,” said the press release.

    What other tools does Google have to offer?

    Within Google Research’s team, there’s a Health AI team that looks at using the latest technology to improve healthcare. Recently, it announced the following tools:

    Med-PaLM – It is a large language model (LLM) that answers medical questions. The tool uses Google’s large language models that are aligned to the medical domain and evaluated using medical exams, medical research, and consumer queries. Its second version, Med-PaLM 2, is one of the research models that powers MedLM– a family of foundation models fine-tuned specifically for the healthcare industry. As per Google’s blog, this version provides much better long-form answers to consumer medical questions.

    Med-Gemini – a family of Gemini models fine-tuned for multimodal medical domain applications. The models build upon Google’s Gemini models “by fine-tuning on de-identified medical data while inheriting Gemini’s native reasoning, multimodal, and long-context abilities.” As per the blog post, it has the potential to assist in clinician, researcher, and patient workflows although Med-Gemini is not a product offering available for commercial use currently.

    Imaging and diagnostics – Partnering with other healthcare organizations, Google is also working on AI-enabled tools that focus on diagnostics to assist clinicians. The abovementioned ARDA is one such tool that helps clinicians detect diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness, in India and elsewhere. The team also mentioned it is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic to study the use of AI to help plan radiotherapy treatment for cancer.

    Are there any concerns around a collaboration between India and Google’s Health Team?

    One longstanding concern around the digitization of healthcare has been the lack of security around health data. Many hoped that India’s data protection law would address this concern but the final version of the law does not even define “health data” or “sensitive data.” This makes health data vulnerable since many entities would be invested in accessing such data.

    For example, insurance companies would benefit from having such data in their hands. How do we know that something like the CAMS incident may not happen here where Google may say it will share certain aspects of health data with insurance companies? Further, What about individuals from the transgender community who wish to protect their medical data to avoid discrimination?

    All of this is not to say that healthcare should not be digitized. However, if the government plans to move forward with such considerable changes, there is a definite need to revise the health-data-related laws in our country.

    It’s also interesting that Google is keen to engage in such initiatives with India considering in September 2023, DeSalvo had said that generative AI is still in the early exploratory research phase and not yet ready to be released into the healthcare sector. At the time, she said DeSalvo pointed out that other technologies like simple data analytics systems deserve as much attention as generative AI. It appears that eight months later, Google’s stance on this topic appears to have shifted somewhat.

    Also Read:

    The post India to Enhance Digital Healthcare with Google’s AI Tools via Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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