Google unveils MedLM, a family of healthcare-focused generative AI models

Google announced the release of MedLM which is a family of healthcare-focused generative AI models after its release of Gemini which is also an LLM but focused on general things. There are two MedLM models available currently: a larger model designed for what Google describes as “complex tasks” and a smaller, fine-tunable model best for “scaling across tasks.”

Yossi Matias, VP of engineering and research at Google, wrote in a blog post “Through piloting our tools with different organizations, we’ve learned that the most effective model for a given task varies depending on the use case”. “For example, summarizing conversations might be best handled by one model, and searching through medications might be better handled by another.” He adds “one early MedLM user, the for-profit facility operator HCA Healthcare, has been piloting the models with physicians to help draft patient notes at emergency department hospital sites. Another tester, BenchSci, has built MedLM into its “evidence engine” for identifying, classifying, and ranking novel biomarkers. “We’re working in close collaboration with practitioners, researchers, health and life science organizations, and the individuals at the forefront of healthcare every day,”

World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the risks of using generative AI in healthcare, noting the potential for models to generate harmful wrong answers, propagate disinformation about health issues, and reveal health data or other sensitive info. They added in a statement that “While WHO is enthusiastic about the appropriate use of technologies, including [generative AI], to support healthcare professionals, patients, researchers, and scientists, there’s concern that caution that would normally be exercised for any new technology is not being exercised consistently with [generative AI],” the WHO said in a statement. “Precipitous adoption of untested systems could lead to errors by healthcare workers, cause harm to patients, erode trust in AI and thereby undermine or delay the potential long-term benefits and uses of such technologies around the world.”

Yes, there are definite risks of using AI in healthcare and Google understands them very well. Due to that reason, Matias continued in his post that “[W]e’re focused on enabling professionals with a safe and responsible use of this technology,”. “And we’re committed to not only helping others advance healthcare but also making sure that these benefits are available to everyone.”

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