Google’s medical AI may soon answer questions about health

The Google LLC logo is seen at the Google Store in Chelsea, New York City,

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Google The new wellness initiatives and partnerships were announced Tuesday at its annual event called “The Check Up.” The Google Health team shared the latest on upcoming search features, tools for building health apps, and the latest AI-powered health research.

During the event, the company discussed new partnerships to help develop AI-assisted ultrasound, cancer treatment and tuberculosis screening, but particular attention was drawn around the latest version of its large-scale language model for medicine called Med-PaLM.

Google first launched Med-PaLM late last year. It aims to provide high-quality answers to medical questions. Med-PaLM is the first AI system to successfully score a passing score or exceed 60% on multiple-choice questions similar to those used on the USMLE.

Med-PaLM 2, the second iteration of the technology, consistently performed at an “expert” level on medical examination questions, the company said. Med-PaLM 2 has achieved over 85% accuracy, a score 18% higher than previous results.

Dr. Alan Karthikesalingam, head of research at Google Health, said the company is also testing Med-PaLM’s answers against responses from real doctors and clinicians. Med-PaLM’s responses were evaluated for factual accuracy, bias and potential harm, he said.

Karthikesalingam showed a controlled example of how Med-PaLM 2 can answer questions such as “What’s the first warning sign of pneumonia?” (this demo is not live). and “Can incontinence be cured?” In some cases, the Med-PaLM 2 answers are comparable to, or even more detailed than, those provided by clinicians. But in other cases, Med-PaLM 2’s response was not as accurate.

“You can tell from this type of work that we are still learning,” Karthikesalingam said at the event.

Given the sensitivity of medical information, Karthikesalingam said it may be a while before it is within the reach of the average consumer. He said it was important to innovate responsibly in a controlled environment.

Google will continue to work with Med-PaLM researchers and experts, and Karthikesalingam said the company will share more updates on it in the future.

“The potential here is huge,” he said, “but it’s critical to explore real-world applications in a responsible and ethical way.”

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