Google bets that smart software will improve health care

DeepMind Health gives hospitals data quickly enough to save more lives.

Google's DeepMind project has mostly focused on solving high-minded computer intelligence issues. Today, though, it's tackling something far more practical in the short-term: health care. The new DeepMind Health initiative relies on smart mobile apps to deliver medical data to doctors and nurses in time to save lives. The first app, Streams, helps spot acute kidney injuries that would otherwise go unnoticed. There are also plans to integrate technology from a third-party task management app, Hark, to identify patients that are at risk of deteriorating quickly.

The initial DeepMind Health effort is focused on the UK's National Health Service. And despite the name, it doesn't currently use artificial intelligence -- Google is "excited" about the possibility of using AI, but it's not part of these early tests. If everything pans out, though, this could go a long way toward streamlining health info and eliminating the need for archaic tech like fax machines and pagers to make sense of a patient's status.