Google is closing its Google Health division

Google to close health division following exit of leader

August 24, 2021
by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter
Google is shuttering its health division following the departure of its chief and vice president, Dr. David Feinberg.

The company revealed the news to its employees on Thursday in a leaked memo that said Google Health will no longer function as a single entity, with various projects and teams to be transferred to other parts of the company, according to Business Insider.

The news comes just days after Feinberg announced he was leaving to take up the role of CEO and president of EHR developer Cerner Corporation.

"Google deeply believes in the power of technology to improve health and wellness, and we have increased our health investments across the company," Google told Business Insider. "This has included developing projects within Google Health, launching and expanding health-related features on Search, Maps and YouTube that reach billions of people, and welcoming Fitbit."

When announced last week, the departure of Feinberg left many questioning the company’s objectives. Feinberg, who was appointed head of Google’s health strategy — a role created for him — in 2018, said earlier this summer that he felt pressure to scale Google Health’s products to have a global impact rather than to rake in more revenue, according to CNBC.

“The real pressure is ‘is this really going to help millions of people?’,” Feinberg said at the Wall Street Journal Health Tech virtual conference in June. “Is it Google scale? That’s the pressure.”

One transfer will be Google Health’s clinical group, which will now report to Google researcher and AI lead Jeff Dean, reports Business Insider.

Ranging from skin and hair care to algorithms for hospital workflow and mammography screenings, the division boasted a number of solutions and engaged in various projects. Back in April, it partnered with Varian to use Neural Architecture Search (NAS) technology via the Google Cloud AI Platform to create AI models for organ segmentation, a crucial but labor-intensive step in radiation oncology.

Before this, it collaborated with Hologic to combine its Google Cloud machine learning technology with the company’s Genius Digital Diagnostics cytology platform to screen for cervical cancer. This enabled Hologic’s solution to provide more actionable insights from cytology slides to cytotechnologists and pathologists, as well as enhanced its capabilities through a reliable cloud data architecture.

Google announced a shakeup of the division earlier this summer, saying it would focus more on clinical and regulatory solutions and less on consumer-facing offerings. This included restructuring the division into three groups and transferring 130 employees from Google Health to other teams within its company, including its search division and Fitbit, which it acquired in January for $2.1 billion. This transfer of nearly 20% of its staff brought its employee numbers down from about 700 to 570.

The news of the shut down also comes days after the publication of a report that suggested that Apple was cutting down a specific health team doing work on an internal health app, reported Apple Insider. Apple, which has continued to grow as a company in the healthcare space, recently showcased a range of healthcare technologies earlier in 2021, including secure sharing between physicians and wellness-focused tools on the iPhone and Apple Watch.

An exact date for the closing was not provided.

Google did not respond to HCB News for comment.