Mayo Clinic steps into A.I. with help from Google

Mayo Clinic has been expanding its footprint here in Arizona since spreading out from its Minnesota homebase. The nonprofit academic health care network, which has Arizona locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, doubled the size of its Phoenix campus last year through a $648 million project that added 1.4 million square feet of building space, increasing its clinical capacity, support services, and infrastructure.

Earlier this summer, Mayo Clinic began offering tech-savvy telemedicine options for patients who live in more rural areas, and now Mayo is taking tech a step further with a recent announcement about teaming up with Google to help change the way health care is provided to communities of all kinds throughout the country.

The 10-year partnership, announced last week, will leverage new technologies to help patients gain more streamlined access to medical services around the country. Google will be opening up its Cloud platform for Mayo to use advanced cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Mayo Clinic is working on nearly 200 AI projects at all campuses in Arizona as well as Minnesota, and Florida.

“With one of the most robust sources of clinical insights in the world, Mayo Clinic is well-positioned to lead digital transformation in health care,” said Christopher Ross, chief information officer, Mayo Clinic in a statement. “Our partnership will propel a multitude of AI projects currently spearheaded by our scientists and physicians, and will provide technology tools to unlock the value of data and deliver answers at a scale much greater than today.”

The collaboration brings together clinical knowledge from Mayo Clinic with data security expertise from Google to help provide solutions. In the past decade, hospital systems have moved patient records from paper to digital, creating a data cluster that is costly to store and a little confusing to use as hospitals and health care networks rely on multiple software programs that don’t flow from one to the next. Hospitals are needing to find new ways to gather and organize that data in order to be analyzed more efficiently and provide new solutions for treatments.

Health care systems have begun investing heavily in their own data storage, but have created a growing cost for increased capacity and improved cyber security. The partnership between Mayo and Google will help to advance virtual care through AI-enabled digital diagnostics.

Google Cloud will take the reigns of storing and securing the data from Mayo Clinic’s system while navigating through cloud computing technologies. Mayo Clinic will manage access to all data by using institutional controls and authorize the use of data in projects in order to create new health care insights and solutions.

Currently, Mayo Clinic is highlighting two major AI projects here in the Phoenix area. One project focuses on teaching Google Photos how to automatically find tumors in clinical images. According to Jim McVeigh, Public Affairs for Mayo Clinic, this project, led by researchers Kristin Swanson Ph.D. and Ross Mitchell Ph.D, searches for the most accurate solutions to identify tumors and differentiate between other objects in medical imaging.

Another project deals with creating a new AI-powered microscope for clinical imagery to help brain cancer patients. With accurate and patient-specific solutions, AI can help leverage clinical MR images and come up with ways to target tumors.

“Clinical imaging is at the center of care for brain cancer patients, as it provides insight into the day-to-day changes in the tumor burden and location,” said McVeigh. “Yet, clinical imaging, like MRI, fails to tell us the answers to the most important questions: where are all the tumor cells; what part of the tumor will be vulnerable to the treatment we want to deliver; and when is the best time to deliver that treatment.”

Nick Esquer

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