Atthe end of each hospital shift, the outgoing nurse has to quickly bring the incoming one up to speed about all of the patients under their care. This “handoff” can take multiple forms, including conversations, handwritten notes and electronic medical records. “[It’s] a risky part of the healthcare journey, because we’re transferring information from one healthcare provider to another,” says Michael Schlosser, senior vice president of care transformation and innovation for HCA Healthcare. “We have to make sure that it’s done in an accurate way and that nothing falls through the cracks.”
Schlosser and his team at Nashville-based HCA – one of the largest healthcare systems in the country with 180 hospitals and around 37 million patients a year – thought this transfer of information could be a good opportunity to apply generative artificial intelligence. Large language models are good at summarizing and organizing data. But when HCA scoured the market for potential vendors, Schlosser says they couldn’t find any companies building solutions for this handoff issue.
HCA had an existing partnership with Google Cloud, so they turned to Google’s software suite called Vertex AI, which helps customers build and deploy machine learning models. Google offers its own foundation model, known as PaLM, but the platform is model agnostic, meaning customers can also swap in and build on OpenAI’s GPT-4, Facebook’s Llama, Amazon’s Titan or any other model of their choosing.
In a bid to woo more healthcare customers, Google has also been developing a healthcare-specific large language model. The company announced Tuesday it will release the latest version – called Med-PaLM 2 – to a wider number of customers in September. HCA is one of several healthcare customers that has had early access, along with the pharmaceutical giant Bayer, electronic health record company Meditech and digital health startups Infinitus Systems and Huma. This renewed push into healthcare comes as Microsoft and Amazon are making their own AI-powered inroads into the sector, and it’s far from clear which will come out on top when the dust clears.
“We’re still five minutes into the marathon,” Gartner analyst Chirag Dekate says of the healthcare AI landscape.