February 9, 2023

Ever get a mostly illegible note from your doctor?

Google is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning model that can identify and even highlight drugs on a doctor’s handwritten prescription.

In a press release issued on Monday, Google Research India said the system will act as an assistive technology to digitize handwritten medical documents by augmenting people in the loop, such as pharmacists.

However, it noted that no decision would be made solely on the output provided by the technology.

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In this photo illustration, a screen shows the Google logo in Nadiat Hatta, West Bengal, India, September 4, 2020.
((Photo illustration by Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto via Getty Images))

“You might be thinking, we’ve had the technology to decipher text from images for decades: so what’s new, what makes Prescription different?” Google India said. “Ironically, what makes it difficult for computers to digitize prescriptions is the same thing that makes it difficult for you and me to read them — they are unstructured, abbreviated and full of clues for pharmacists to decipher.”

Doctor writes refill prescription

Doctor writes refill prescription
((Photo by Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images))

It said the system was currently in development — later telling TechCrunch that the feature was in a research prototype and the company hadn’t committed to rolling it out — and Google India will share an update wider rollout in the future.


The feature was also announced at Google’s annual Google India conference.

The Google logo is pictured at the Google India office complex in Hyderabad on January 28, 2022.

The Google logo is pictured at the Google India office complex in Hyderabad on January 28, 2022.
((NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images))

Google Research India also noted that the need to develop AI responsibly is “fundamental,” and that the search engine giant has invested $1 million in the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, to build the first of its kind AI technology. Disciplinary Center for Responsible Artificial Intelligence.

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Gizmodo reports that the technology will be part of the Google Lens app library, which already has the ability to digitally transcribe handwritten notes.

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