Mayo Clinic, one of medicine’s most prestigious brands, announced Tuesday that it has struck a sweeping partnership with Google to store patient data in the cloud and build products using artificial intelligence and other technologies to improve care.
The 10-year partnership is a testament to Google’s expanding role in the U.S. health care system and gives Mayo greater access to the engineering talent and computing resources it needs to embed its expertise in algorithms and commercial devices.
Google said it will open a new office in Rochester, a city whose economy, and very identity, is inextricably linked with Mayo, which invented the medical record more than a century ago and is now seeking to mine its data for new insights into patient care. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The deal is driven in part by Mayo’s desire to expand its use of artificial intelligence, which relies on modern computing environments where data can be securely shared and manipulated by physicians and researchers. While large portions of Mayo’s clinical data will be stored in Google’s cloud, hospital officials emphasized that Mayo will control access to that information.
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“We own the keys to the data,” said Christopher Ross, the hospital system’s chief information officer. “It’s Mayo-controlled private data that we keep on behalf of our patients. Google doesn’t have any right or ability to get to those data.”
As part of the partnership, Ross said, Mayo may decide to share de-identified patient data with Google and other parties for specific research projects.
“We will explore all those opportunities if we’re sure that the data can be kept private,” he said, adding later: “There are serious plans underway to develop truly transformational kinds of health options and solutions that we would bring to market with Google.”
Mayo joins several other large hospital systems in moving more data out of on-premise server warehouses and into the cloud. Many are inking deals with the world’s largest technology companies. In addition to Google, Microsoft, Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) are also working with large health systems to help secure, manage, and analyze their data.
Mayo physicians and engineers are already developing artificial intelligence for a variety of clinical uses, such as screening patients for early signs of heart disease and warning people with epilepsy about oncoming seizures. But the partnership with Google is meant to fuel broader experimentation across the hospital system and help Mayo craft AI that could reach patients far beyond its walls.
The hospital system, which operates facilities across the Midwest, and in Arizona and Florida, currently has internal cloud storage that holds about 3 petabytes of data; the deal with Google’s cloud division will allow it to expand that capacity tenfold. (A petabyte is the equivalent of 1 million gigabytes.)
It is not yet clear which health problems Mayo might address with Google or what kinds of products they will seek to develop and commercialize. In broad terms, the organizations said they will focus on discovering more effective treatments, educating patients, and providing digital tools to help diagnose diseases and deliver more timely and convenient services.
Aashima Gupta, director of global health care solutions at Google Cloud, said the first step is to move more of Mayo’s data into the cloud, where it could be more easily aggregated and analyzed by Mayo’s physicians and researchers.
“To drive insights at scale, we need to be able to combine multiple, disparate datasets,” Gupta said, adding that combining genetic information with patients’ clinical histories and social and economic data may help to deliver more effective treatments for patients with rare and complex diseases.
She declined to say how many people will work out of Google’s office in Rochester, but said the work with Mayo will likely include employees housed in several locations.
The two organizations have teamed up previously to optimize Google’s search results – about one of every 20 searches on Google is health related – to prioritize information from Mayo and other medical organizations.
“Those are just baby steps,” Ross said, adding that Mayo has also been exploring projects with DeepMind, Google’s subsidiary based in London. “There are enormous opportunities in our health care system to be able to diagnose and manage disease at a distance. We clearly expect to supply solutions outside our physical walls to be used by other health systems.”
Date: September 18, 2019