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Mayo Clinic lands data partnership with Google

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The Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building
Pedestrians cross the street as they leave Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in Rochester, Minn., in January 2016. Mayo Clinic is joining with Google on a partnership to use artificial intelligence to improve care of rare and complex diseases.
Alex Kolyer for MPR News 2016 file

Mayo Clinic and Google are partnering to use artificial intelligence to inform the practice of medicine.

Under the agreement, Mayo will use Google Cloud to manage and store its decades’ worth of patient data.

But the partnership has goals beyond data storage.

Mayo's chief medical information officer, Dr. Steve Peters, said the collaboration will use Mayo’s medical data to develop machine-learning models aimed at improving health care.

"You can have a big data set, and you can have a data scientist analyze it,” said Peters. “But without clinical knowledge, medical knowledge or our research knowledge about what it might mean and how it might be applied, you'd not go as far."

Peters said artificial intelligence is already being used to make doctors’ jobs less clerical.

But he said that using machine learning — automating data analysis to identify patterns — could lead to earlier detection and better treatment of diseases, especially rare and complex conditions.

The attraction for Google is not just the quantity of data that Mayo has collected; it’s the quality, said Aashmia Gupta, director for Global Healthcare Solutions for Google Cloud.

“Mayo has a wealth of information on rare and complex disease. That’s what people come to Mayo for,” she said.

Peters said Mayo will continue to manage and control access to patient data being stored in the cloud.

Google is expected to open an office in Rochester, Minn. Google declined to say how many of its staffers will be deployed there. The city has been working to expand its footprint in the tech world as part of the Destination Medical Center economic development plan.

Editor’s note: Reporter Catharine Richert is married to a Mayo Clinic physician who is involved in the institution's artificial intelligence projects but he is not involved in this partnership.