UPDATED 19:43 EDT / APRIL 20 2020


Google’s Cloud Healthcare API is ready for prime time

Google LLC today announced the general availability of a new technology that should make it easier for patients to access their own healthcare information through third-party applications.

The Google Healthcare API is a service that helps to facilitate the exchange of data among healthcare applications and services that run on Google’s cloud. It enables healthcare providers to ingest and manage data from multiple inputs and systems, then analyze that data using artificial intelligence and machine learning-based tools.

Healthcare providers are likely to embrace the new service, as new government mandates mean they’ll be required to make it easier for patients to access and use their health data, Google said. The service could also help to relieve the strain on healthcare systems that are being overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Google describes Cloud Healthcare API as a managed, scalable environment for building clinical and analytics applications that support HIPAA compliance. It said the service incorporates several data loss prevention, policy and identity management tools. So, for example, customers can select the region where their data is stored, and implement practices such as the principle of least privilege. They can also track all interactions with their data thanks to the API’s integration with Google’s Cloud Audit Logs.

The API ships with connectors to various streaming data processing tools Google offers, including BigQuery, AI Platform, Dataflow and Looker. It also comes with an automated de-identification capability that works by obfuscating or removing any personally identifiable information so the data can be used for training and evaluating machine learning models.

“With Cloud Healthcare API and our partner ecosystem, our goal is to make it as simple as possible for the industry to make informed, data-driven decisions, so that caregivers can focus on what matters most: saving lives,” Google Healthcare and Life Sciences directors Joe Corkery and Aashima Gupta wrote in a blog post. “With Google Cloud’s analytics and machine learning tools, you can simplify custom machine learning model training, and rapidly develop, test, and deploy production-grade ML models. You can also leverage Cloud Healthcare API’s to store the outputs of these [machine learning] models and integrate them into existing clinical workflows.”

Google said the Mayo Clinic has been using the Cloud Healthcare API for almost a year to help enable the “storage and interoperability” of its clinical data.

Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. told SiliconANGLE that technology can be a powerful enabler for healthcare providers even in normal times, let alone during the pandemic we’re going through now.

“APIs are crucial given the lack of standards and myriad of systems in healthcare, and the need to exchange data between the key healthcare constituents, patients, providers and researchers,” Mueller said. “Google also has all its AI and machine learning tools, its GSuite capabilities, and a solid cloud platform to offer. But it remains to be seen if the new capabilities will be enough to overcome people’s fear of Google being entrusted with their healthcare data.”

Google does however, have to compete with several rival firms that offer similar solutions to healthcare providers, David Chou, another analyst at Constellation Research, told SiliconANGLE.

“Decision makers are looking at Google if they are already clients, but it will be difficult for a non-Google strategic client to take advantage of this solution at this moment in time,” Chou said.

The launch of Cloud Healthcare API into general availability comes more than two years after it was first announced in preview.

Image: Google

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