Google is betting on telehealth as the next frontier for its natural language processing (NLP) and translation services. The stakes are high: Google Cloud announced a USD 100m investment and multiyear partnership with US telehealth platform Amwell, which filed for an IPO.
Amwell will now migrate its video capabilities to Google Cloud. According to the press release on the investment, “Google Cloud and Amwell see an opportunity to improve patient and clinician telehealth experiences through technologies that […] provide automated language translation services.”
Founded in 2006 as American Well, Amwell’s telehealth platform connects healthcare providers with patients who have “acute care needs that don’t require a trip to the emergency room.” Users can browse services by speciality or practice name and only see services from providers licensed in their state.
Amwell’s selling points reflect this moment in American healthcare history. The company boasts 24/7/365 service; patients without insurance can pay privately for services; all participating physicians are Board-certified; and – especially attractive during the coronavirus pandemic – “no more germy waiting rooms.”
“During your appointment, you continue to speak in your preferred language to your physician, while cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) provides live, translated captioning of the conversation” – Amwell elevator pitch.
Prior to Google’s investment, Amwell already had partnerships with some big names, including CVS Health, Walgreens, and Philips. That said, medical care provided remotely has its limits. For patients they treat via Amwell, physicians cannot order lab tests, prescribe certain medications, or fill out complex medical documents that require in-person evaluation. Although the company aims to soon make its services available worldwide, Amwell currently only operates in the US.
The platform’s linguistic offerings are similarly restricted. Amwell’s website states that “all virtual doctor visits provider groups offer some Spanish-speaking physicians, although not in all states.”