Karen B. DeSalvo, Google’s chief health officer, spoke Monday about the future of health care and artificial intelligence at Harvard Medical School as part of the 22nd Annual Seedman Lecture.
The Seidman Lecture is an annual lecture series that brings together health policy experts from outside Harvard University to provide insight on emerging topics related to the cost, quality, and improvement of health care.
DeSalvo’s talk this year focused on her work at Google and the developments the company is driving in healthcare and AI. This included understanding users’ health needs, removing barriers to accessing healthcare, and creating solutions for caregivers.
“For the first time in my life, and thanks in large part to AI, I can imagine democratizing the health of every person on the planet, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, the type of insurance they have, etc. I think it has enabled them to do that, which is their hallmark,” DeSalvo said. “And Google is certainly trying to contribute to that.”
“But one example of how we can do that with a service like search is when people are looking for health information, we collect high-quality information that we create in partnership with organizations like the National Health Service. “You can,” she added.
DeSalvo talked about how Google is leveraging AI to provide caregivers with tools and information for future “diagnosis and treatment.”
She went on to talk about how AI can be implemented to equitably distribute resources to address urgent patient needs.
“In places like sub-Saharan Africa, there are fewer radiologists and fewer tests for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, so how do we improve the environment and prioritize the highest-risk radiographs? Can we help the team there identify which ones are which? Do patients need the few resources available?” she said.
In his closing remarks, DeSalvo asserted the real possibility of healthcare that is “accessible to everyone on the planet.” While discussing the potential of AI in healthcare, he said, “Health is human,” emphasizing that humans will continue to play an important role in this field.
“This is a really great time to think about the ‘what ifs’ of what the world will look like in a few years. I think we all have a responsibility to come together and create health,” she said. “It’s not just about one field or one part of the world.”