Google's announcement of a partnership with a major healthcare provider raises fresh privacy concerns as the tech company expands its footprint into the healthcare industry. Monday's announcement comes after the Wall Street Journal revealed Google had won access to health-related information of millions of Americans across 21 states through the partnership with Ascension – the second-largest healthcare system in the US. The Journal reported that the data involved in the project includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth. The collaboration, code-named "Project Nightingale", began in secret last year, according to the Journal. Google's parent company, Alphabet, on Monday officially signed Ascension, its biggest cloud computing customer in healthcare yet.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google has signed its biggest cloud computing customer in healthcare to date, in a deal giving it access to datasets that could help it tune potentially lucrative artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Google and Ascension, which operates 150 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities across the United States, said the healthcare provider would move some data and analytics tools in its facilities to Google's servers. The deal was mentioned in Google's July earnings call, but drew scrutiny on Monday after the Wall Street Journal reported on.wsj.com/2q3WCer that Google would gain personal health-related information of millions of Americans across 21 states. The Journal reported that the data involved in the project includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, along with patient names and dates of birth. Google said in a blog post on Monday that patient data "cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data."
David Feinberg, Google's Vice President of Healthcare, recently described "a search bar on top of ... [ ] your [electronic health records] that needs no training," on stage at a conference in Las Vegas. Google is testing a service that would use its search and artificial intelligence technology to analyze patient records for Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S., according to documents about the efforts reviewed by Forbes. Called "'Nightingale," the Google-Ascension project indicates that Google's push into health analysis is farther along than previously believed, even as the company has faced a growing backlash over health-related privacy concerns. Ascension said in a statement that all its work with Google complies with privacy law and is "underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort, which Google echoed in its own blog post later Monday, including that "patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data. " The Wall Street Journal first published details of the Ascension partnership earlier on Monday.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Google will have access to patient records from HCA, which operates 181 hospitals and more than 2,000 healthcare sites in 21 states. "HCA would consolidate and store with Google data from digital health records and internet-connected medical devices under the multi-year agreement," the report said on Wednesday. Google will store anonymised data from patient health records and internet-connected medical devices. That data will be used to build programmes that could inform medical decisions made by healthcare providers, the report mentioned. Not just Google, Microsoft and Amazon are also working in the field to analyse patient data and create such AI/ML-based programmes, to foray into the $3 trillion healthcare sector.
Google secretly gathered millions of patient records across 21 states on behalf of a health care provider, in an effort dubbed "Project Nightingale," reports The Wall Street Journal. Neither the provider's doctors nor patients were made aware of the effort, according to the report. The Wall Street Journal's Rob Copeland wrote that the data amassed in the program includes "lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth," and that as many as 150 Google employees may have had access to the data. The New York Times corroborated much of the report later in the day, writing that "dozens of Google employees" may have access to sensitive patient data, and that there are concerns that some Google employees may have downloaded some of that data. But Google tells The Verge that despite the surprise, it's standard industry practice for a health care provider to share highly sensitive health records with tech workers under an agreement like the kind it signed -- one that narrowly allows Google to build tools for that health care provider by using the private medical data of its patients, and one that doesn't require patients to be notified, the company claims.