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Google to close health division following exit of leader

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 24, 2021
Business Affairs Health IT
Google is closing its Google Health division
Google is shuttering its health division following the departure of its chief and vice president, Dr. David Feinberg.

The company revealed the news to its employees on Thursday in a leaked memo that said Google Health will no longer function as a single entity, with various projects and teams to be transferred to other parts of the company, according to Business Insider.

The news comes just days after Feinberg announced he was leaving to take up the role of CEO and president of EHR developer Cerner Corporation.

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"Google deeply believes in the power of technology to improve health and wellness, and we have increased our health investments across the company," Google told Business Insider. "This has included developing projects within Google Health, launching and expanding health-related features on Search, Maps and YouTube that reach billions of people, and welcoming Fitbit."

When announced last week, the departure of Feinberg left many questioning the company’s objectives. Feinberg, who was appointed head of Google’s health strategy — a role created for him — in 2018, said earlier this summer that he felt pressure to scale Google Health’s products to have a global impact rather than to rake in more revenue, according to CNBC.

“The real pressure is ‘is this really going to help millions of people?’,” Feinberg said at the Wall Street Journal Health Tech virtual conference in June. “Is it Google scale? That’s the pressure.”

One transfer will be Google Health’s clinical group, which will now report to Google researcher and AI lead Jeff Dean, reports Business Insider.

Ranging from skin and hair care to algorithms for hospital workflow and mammography screenings, the division boasted a number of solutions and engaged in various projects. Back in April, it partnered with Varian to use Neural Architecture Search (NAS) technology via the Google Cloud AI Platform to create AI models for organ segmentation, a crucial but labor-intensive step in radiation oncology.

Before this, it collaborated with Hologic to combine its Google Cloud machine learning technology with the company’s Genius Digital Diagnostics cytology platform to screen for cervical cancer. This enabled Hologic’s solution to provide more actionable insights from cytology slides to cytotechnologists and pathologists, as well as enhanced its capabilities through a reliable cloud data architecture.

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