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Can Google Predict When a Patient Will Die?

June 19, 2018 - 4:11 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- You can find almost anything on Google. Now the company apparently has technology that can predict when you'll die.

Bloomberg reporter Mack Bergen talks to WCBS 880’s Michael Wallace about Google's artificial intelligence software that can forecast patient outcomes.

How does this new technology work?

"This is Google's AI system and it's just a research paper now but the idea is that in clinical settings you're basically able to scan loads of information about electronic medical records and then they'll spit out some predictive models that'll say this patient has the likelihood of having this disease or having this long hospital stay or even something as extreme of this likelihood of dying during the hospital visit," Bergen said.

And this is useful how?

"This is useful in several ways. One is that hospital networks and doctor's offices have struggled for years to make sense of this pile of data they have, electronic medical records that can go back years, sometimes the systems don't talk to each other. Tthis is a way that cuts down a lot of time to analyze that, it spits out these algorithms, can analyze them much faster than we can now and with much better predictive power. Google is also working on ways to be better than pathologists, and radiologists and even dermatologists," Bergen said.

Is this in practice anywhere yet or is it still just a theory?

"It's just a theory. At this point they have partnerships with two hospitals that we know of in San Francisco and the University of Chicago. IBM Watson has put this in practice at a few clinics -- something similar -- and actually has struggled to put this to practical use," Bergen said.

What kind of ethical concerns are there? If an insurance company gets a hold of your possibility or percentage of dying that could be problematic.

"There are plenty of those. There's also a lot of concerns about data privacy. Google has said in the hospitals that this is something that when they go into the hospital everyone who signs in says they're willing to surrender this data for research purposes, it's fully anonymized and deidentified, but there are privacy advocates that have concerns both of potential for risks like that as well as companies like Google having a strong monopolistic control over both now search data and then potentially health data in the future."