Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic is entering into a two-year agreement with Verily, Alphabet's life sciences subsidiary, to co-develop clinical decision-support software tools, the organizations announced Thursday.
Mayo, which is already two years into a decade-long partnership with Verily's sister company Google, and Verily initially plan to develop digital tools that clinicians can use while treating patients for cardiovascular and cardiometabolic conditions. Clinical decision-support products analyze data and provide recommendations on disease management and care guidelines.
The announcement comes on the heels of reports that Google is losing its health head, Dr. David Feinberg, who joins Cerner Crop. as CEO in October, and that the company is unwinding its three-year-old Google Health division as it distributes health projects and teams across research, search and device divisions.
Mayo has said that the reorganization at Google doesn't affect its work with the company, and that the system will maintain its 10-year cloud storage and innovation arrangement with Google.
Under the new partnership, Mayo and Verily plan to deploy the software they co-develop at Mayo's sites and for Verily to commercialize and sell the tools to other health systems.
"We're approaching this with the notion—and the explicit intention—that this will be part of our core product offering," said Paul Varghese, clinical lead for health informatics at Verily.
Each tool will undergo a regulatory assessment, to determine whether it requires clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, according to Varghese. Some clinical decision-support products require review from the FDA, while others don't, depending on whether they're deemed low or high risk to patients.
Investments into startups that sell clinician decision-support software have been booming, with companies raising $1.1 billion during the first half of 2021—more than double the amount raised during the same period last year, according to data compiled by Mercom Capital Group, a market research firm.
Mayo and Verily declined to share financial details of their partnership, but Varghese said the organizations are contributing comparable resources to the project.
If a product is commercialized, it's an opportunity for Mayo to "share its clinical knowledge" with clinicians outside of the Mayo network, said Jane Shellum, an administrator in Mayo's knowledge management and delivery program and a clinical knowledge engineer for the co-development project with Verily.
Mayo and Verily will create the clinical decision-support tools based on evidence from various sources, including clinical information corralled by Mayo's staff and research done using the health system's de-identified patient data. Verily will analyze that information and design software so that recommendations are integrated directly into clinical workflows.
Other efforts to create AI tools with clinical knowledge from health systems have hit snags.
IBM's Watson for Oncology, a high-profile AI for cancer treatment, came under fire in 2018 after reports it recommended erroneous and unsafe cancer treatments. Some physicians voiced concern that the clinical decision-support system's recommendations sometimes relied on treatment preferences of physicians at New York City-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which had helped train the AI. Those treatments reportedly deviated from other guidelines.
Mayo and Verily are approaching clinical decision-support in a slightly different way than other vendors, said Dr. Rick Nishimura, a cardiologist at Mayo who works on the knowledge management and delivery program. The products won't just recommend next steps, but also will help clinicians make decisions by providing its suggestions with relevant patient data and risk scores.
The goal is to be "giving a lot more valuable information" to clinicians, so that they can make their own decisions, according to Nishimura.