Google Lens Takes a Close Look at Doctor’s Notes

The hardly legible handwriting commonly associated with physicians is being put under looking glass — almost literally, as Google Lens has been augmented with an AI technology program that can decipher doctor’s notes. The announcement of the feature, which will join the massive library of Lens applications, came at the Alphabet subsidiary’s annual conference in India, and focused on the avoidance of medical mistakes that stem from poor handwriting as well as a priority on easing prescription processes for pharmacists.

As exciting, if unsurprising given Google Lens’ current breadth of power, as the new feature is, introduction into medical systems is still far off on the horizon.

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“While the initial results have been heartening, much work still remains to be done before this system is ready for the real world,” the company said in an official statement. “This will act as an assistive technology for digitizing handwritten medical documents by augmenting the humans in the loop such as pharmacists, however no decision will be made solely based on the output provided by this technology.”

The decoding tool, which is still being perfected at this time, will work similarly to how Google Lens already assesses, copies, and translates handwriting into phones and computers. Users will take a snapshot of a doctor’s scribbled note and Lens will accordingly process the image, with the topline priority of figuring out accurate names of medications as well as dosages.

Although many clinics have instituted long-standing e-scripts protocols, and all but 10 states are at least on track to acquiesce with laws requiring them, handwritten orders are still a dominant form of official medical recommendation in the U.S. And in India, a medtech hotbed, there are numerous barriers to digitization in the industry — making the region an ideal place for Google to pilot the new feature.