Google launches drug disposal tool, first real-world clinical use of ML for diabetes-related diseases

Google also announced that it is shutting down the Google Fit website on March 19.
By Laura Lovett
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Google has been busy recently. Just in the past week it has closed down its Google Fit website,  launched a new drug disposal tool and announced the first clinical use of Verily’s machine learning tool for diabetic related diseases. 

Below is a look at three of the company’s digital health announcements in the last week. 

Addressing the opioid crisis 

It started last Wednesday when Google announced the launch of a new tool to help people locate drug disposal drop off locations. When a user types in a search related to medication disposals Google will show permanent disposal locations, such as a pharmacy or hospital. 

This announcement comes after Google had teamed up with the US Drug Enforcement Administration last year on a Google Maps API locator tool to help people find temporary drug take back locations. For the new pilot, Google has continued to work with the DEA, as well as teamed up with state governments and privacy entities. 

The opioid epidemic has been a hot topic in the healthcare world and beyond. In 2017 the CDC reported that opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths or 67.8 percent of all overdose deaths that year. The government has also taken steps to address this crisis including an HHS run opioid code-a-thon, which took place in December 2017. Google said that its drug disposal drop was inspired by the winning entry of that code-a-thon. 

Google Fit shutdown

The tech giant announced that it will be turning off the Google Fit website on March 19. As the company steers away from the website, it said it will continue to enhances mobile and smartwatch Fit experiences. In the banner announcement, the company highlighted that it “redesigned Google Fit with new activity goals based on the American Heart Association and World Health Organization physical activity recommendations.”  

Google Fit, which was first launched in June of 2014, will still be available for consumers to use on their Android phone or Wear OS smartwatch. 

Machine Learning for diabetes patients 

Alphabet’s life science subsidiary Verily announced the first real-world clinical use of its machine learning algorithm that screens for diabetes-related diseases, including diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular edema (DME). 

The tool was created to address the shortage of doctors worldwide, with this particular initiative focused on India. The tool was rolled out in Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. The way it works is trained staff member images the patient with a fundus camera. That image is then uploaded to a screening algorithm, machine learning screens for DR and DME and then the results are delivered, according to the blog post. 

“Building off our initial efforts, we believe our machine learning algorithm could be helpful in many other areas of the world where there aren’t enough eye doctors to screen a growing population with diabetes,” Kasumi Widner, program manager at Google and Sunny Virmani, product manager at Verily, said in a blog post today. “As part of our broader screening collaboration, our partners at Verily have received CE mark for the algorithm, which means that the software has met the European Union Directive’s standards for medical devices, further validating our approach.”

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