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Google’s medical chatbot is being tested in hospitals

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In May at Google I/O, Google unveiled the PaLM 2 AI language model, a competitor to OpenAI’s GPT-4 and the mastermind behind Google’s AI chatbot, Bard. Today we learned that Google’s Med-PaLM 2, a version of an AI tool specifically designed to answer questions about medical information, is already being tested at Mayo Clinic Research Hospital.

According to the Wall Street Journal(Opens in a new window)The technology has been in use at the hospital, as well as other sites, since April this year. According to the article, Google fed the bot questions and answers about medical licensing exams, hoping it would eventually be able to conduct conversations about medical issues better than Microsoft’s rival, ChatGPT.

Med-PaLM 2 is capable of answering medical questions as well as summarizing documents and large amounts of health data and creating reminders. According to an internal email obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Google believes the language model could be “of enormous value in countries that have limited access to doctors.”

Early test results highlight some of the same accuracy issues found in responses from other chatbots. However, on several other measures, PaLM2 was able to perform similarly to human clinicians.

The use of AI in medical settings has raised red flags among privacy experts concerned that the companies behind them are using sensitive information for other purposes. According to the WSJ, customers who test the language model retain control of their data. This data is also encrypted in a way that Google itself will not be able to access.

The two doctors testing Med-PaLM 2 and Google say that while the product shows promise, it’s not quite ready to replace a trip to the doctor to diagnose or treat a problem. We’ll also likely see more regulation come into play before an AI dons a virtual white coat and replaces the doctor; However, we are on the right track.

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