Google’s Dr Scott Penberthy on How AI Is Helping to Facilitate More Time With Patients

Much of artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used in the more mundane areas of healthcare, to figure out where it’s most helpful so doctors can do what they do best, which is diagnostic care, noted Scott Penberthy, PhD, MS , Director, Applied AI, Office of the CTO, at Google.

He presented the session “Cancer Program Technology in 2040: The Google Perspective” at this year’s National Oncology Conference of the Association of Community Cancer Centers, which focused on how AI is helping to facilitate and improve the retrieval of health information.


Can you explain how AI has changed and has the potential to transform oncology care?

So the question is: Where can we use AI or where does it already make a difference today? Have you googled lately? If you think about doctors just asking questions every day and they go to google and see what’s the latest treatment that’s coming out and there’s a lot of interaction when you find the latest PubMed papers and whatnot when you Getting results from Google, this is actually AI under the covers. It understands human language much better than ever before.

But if you actually delve into the care side where you can see a little bit more of the private data and such we now find that there is a lot of AI happening around the world and some sort of obsession with can we actually help diagnose and Help you get better with more accuracy? We’re finding that works pretty well outside of the United States, or even with values-based care. For example recognizing and looking at polyps [gastrointestinal issues]. And what we’re finding is if it’s value-based care then it’s beneficial for the doctor, it’s also beneficial for the insurer in the sense that you have incentives that are aligned. But we find that those outside of this incentive zone are not as well aligned. What we find what it ends up doing is it goes to the doctor where he spends less time with the patient and special technology costs a lot more money.

So what we do at Google is figure out where we might be most helpful in a situation. And we find that AI is actually helpful in taking away the mundane by taking the robot part out of the human. Things as simple as looking through multiple PDFs and trying to answer the question, “Are my benefits covered?” Right now you’re calling someone and asking questions, and they have to go through files and find out if that’s covered? Who is available? And all that stuff. We can now use AI to answer some of these questions or take clinical notes and abstract and find general patterns that help you basically have accurate notes.

So a lot of AI is now being used a lot more in the mundane – I call it the boring billions – of healthcare, and can we take some of that out so you can spend more time with patients and do what you do best, which is diagnosis .