Google and Verily are using this tool in India to help diagnose diabetes-related eye conditions. Photo: Verily

Google — along with its health care-focused sister company, Verily — has taken an artificial intelligence tool out of the lab and into real doctors' offices.

Why it matters: So far, AI tools in the health care world have mostly been useful for things like quickly reading and synthesizing a lot of medical literature — a few steps removed from clinical practice. Using a system like this for actual treatment is a big jump.

How it works: Google and Verily are using this tool in India to help diagnose 2 diabetes-related eye conditions that can cause blindness if left untreated.

  • Technicians take photos of patients' eyes, and the AI tool scans them for evidence of either condition so that the technician knows whether patients need to see a doctor, according to Verily.
  • The company said India has a shortage of roughly 100,000 eye doctors and that only a fraction of diabetics are screened for preventable blindness.
  • Thailand may be the companies' next stop.

Go deeper: Alphabet's life sciences unit raises $1 billion

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