- Google is working with Jacaranda Health, a Kenyan nonprofit, focused on improving health outcomes for mothers and babies in government hospitals, to validate the use of AI in clinical settings.
- It has also partnered with Kabarak University and IntelliSOFT Consulting, to host its first Open Health Stack bootcamp in Kenya.
It is not uncommon for people to turn to Google products such as Search, YouTube and or Fitbit for insights about their health and wellbeing.
Of late, Google has been particular in researching how AI can help improve healthcare outcomes for people and how it can empower its partners to deliver better health services.
This is from improving maternal health outcomes to building useful digital tools for healthcare workers.
In line with the upcoming Africa HealthTech Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, here’s how the tech giant is working with partners across Africa to research and explore new AI-powered healthcare tools.
The event aims to bring together diverse groups of digital health innovators and public health experts to share knowledge and ideas to help transform the healthcare landscape in Africa.
1. Improving maternal health outcomes in Kenya
Research has it that ultrasounds are effective in identifying potential issues in early pregnancy, but capturing and interpreting them is a complex medical imaging technique that requires years of training and experience.
Due in part to a shortage of experts, according to Google, up to 50 per cent of pregnant people in low-resource areas do not receive ultrasound screenings during pregnancy.
In a paper published by Google last year, the company showed that AI models can make ultrasounds more accessible to lightly trained ultrasound operators in under-resourced areas.
“We’re working with Jacaranda Health, a Kenyan nonprofit, focused on improving health outcomes for mothers and babies in government hospitals, to validate the use of AI in clinical settings,” Google said in a statement.
“Through this partnership, we’ll conduct research to understand the current approach to ultrasounds in Kenya and explore how new AI tools can support point-of-care ultrasound access for pregnant women.”
2. Using Open Health Stack to build apps for healthcare workers
Across Africa, Google said frontline health workers form a critical link between a community and the healthcare system.
Unfortunately, they often face challenges around care coordination and data quality.
“To build mobile-first, technology-based healthcare solutions that enable better care, healthcare developers in Africa can now use Google’s Open Health Stack to build next-generation digital health tools,” the company said.
“These tools make it easier to adopt the HL7 FHIR standard.”
To help upskill local developers, Google noted that it has also partnered with Kabarak University and IntelliSOFT Consulting, to host its first Open Health Stack bootcamp in Kenya.
3. Screening for tuberculosis using AI
According to WHO, tuberculosis (TB) is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide, with over 25 per cent of TB deaths occurring in Africa.
While TB is treatable, Google said, it requires cost-effective screening solutions to help catch the disease early and reduce community spread.
“This year, we partnered with an AI-based organization headed by Right to Care, a not-for-profit entity with extensive experience in TB care within Africa, to make AI-powered screenings widely available across Sub-Saharan Africa,” the company said in a statement.
“Our partners have committed to performing 100,000 free AI-powered TB screenings during our collaboration.”
4. Searching for skin conditions using images
Describing skin rashes or moles accurately using words alone can be challenging.
According to the tech company, since earlier this year, users in the US and Japan have been able to use Google Lens to search for information about skin conditions with images instead of text.
Google noted that this feature is being expanded to cover the entire African continent.
“People can simply capture a photo, upload it to Lens, and discover visually similar matches,” the tech giant said.
“This feature works well for those times where you’re not sure how to describe something on your body, like a bump on your lip, a line on your nails, or hair loss on your head.”
5. Supporting access to emergency obstetric care in Nigeria
According to recent estimated data, though only 0.06 per cent of annual global births occur in Nigeria, the country disproportionately contributes 28 per cent of global maternal deaths every year.
Online research shows that long travel times play a part in negative maternal outcomes.
Google recently released a tool in Nigeria, developed in collaboration with the OnTIME consortium, to help governments and public health organizations address challenges around accessing emergency obstetric care.
“By using Google’s internal directions API, the same API that powers navigation in Google Maps, decision-makers can see data around average travel times to the nearest emergency obstetric facilities for different regions,” Google said.
“It helps them better understand where expectant mothers may have limited geographic access to life-saving care.”