Third higher-up in 5 months plans to depart Google Health

A VP of engineering plans to switch to Google's commerce wing in January, Business Insider reports – the most recent in a long line of personnel changes.
By Kat Jercich
12:06 PM
A person walks by the Google logo

Carsten Koall/Getty Images

A third Google Health executive plans to depart the tech giant's group, reported Business Insider this past week.   

VP of Engineering Shashidhar Thakur's move to Google's commerce wing would make him the third high-ranking executive to leave Google Health in five months.   

As BI noted, Google Health Director of Global Deployment Michael Macdonnell left in September, followed by U.K. lead Dr. Dominic King in October.

A Google representative declined to comment for this story.

WHY IT MATTERS

Google Health has made a number of notable partnerships in recent years, including with the Mayo Clinic with its work on artificial intelligence and machine learning.  

According to Business Insider, however, former Google Health employees say the group still grapples with its long-term vision. The outlet also reported that Google Health struggles with cohesion, and with marrying its research vision to product management.  

As BI noted, the VP of Google Health, Dr. David Feinberg, reports to AI lead Jeff Dean, who also faced a storm of controversy earlier this month following the departure of one of the company's top AI ethicists, Timnit Gebru.  

Gebru's exit centered on her involvement with a paper she coauthored asserting the potential risks and biases of large-scale AI models.   

According to Wired, Gebru said a senior manager asked her to retract her name from the paper. Gebru then outlined the conditions of her continued employment at the company; according to Gebru, Google fired her. (Google has maintained that it accepted her resignation.)  

The news of Gebru's split from Google was followed by reporting from Reuters that the company had asked its scientists to "strike a positive tone" in AI research, while still acknowledging the "real challenges" posted by the software.  

THE LARGER TREND

Google has made repeated recent forays into healthcare IT, often with a splashy reception. In November, Google Cloud revealed its two AI tools designed to help healthcare organizations analyze large volumes of unstructured text.  

"For healthcare professionals, the process of reviewing and writing medical documents is incredibly labor-intensive," said Andreea Bodnari, a product manager at Google Cloud, in a blog post announcing the tools.  

Seven months prior, the company had announced the launch of its Healthcare API, designed to enable standardized data exchange between apps built on Google Cloud.  

ON THE RECORD  

Google Health "hasn't at all decided what it wants to be when it grows up," said one former employee to Business Insider.

"And that was sort of all right when it was a startup of its own, albeit within a big company. But now it's now getting on two and a half years and it hasn't really moved on," they continued.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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