BY BENEFITS PRO
Google is aggressively collecting and analyzing health care data on millions of patients in 21 states across the U.S.
The effort represents what the Wall Street Journal terms the “biggest effort yet by a Silicon Valley giant to gain a toehold in the health-care industry through the handling of patients’ medical data.”
“Project Nightingale” was first launched last year, in collaboration with Ascension, the Catholic nonprofit that operates over 2,500 hospitals around the country, which has agreed to share its’ patient data with Google.
The effort has targeted complete patient medical records, including names, lab results, hospital visits and prescriptions.
Google is using the information to develop artificial intelligence software that it hopes to sell to to health care providers. The software is supposed to analyze patient medical histories and recommend (or recommend against) treatments.
Right now, however, Ascension is not getting charged for Google’s work.
Legal experts tell the Wall Street Journal that the project appears to not run afoul of HIPAA.
However, like many other tech giants, Google does not enjoy a high level of public trust when it comes to privacy. Just two months ago the company paid a $170 million fine over illegal data collection via YouTube.
Lawmakers aren’t necessarily buying the assurances either.
“That a health care provider could be furnishing sensitive health data, directly tied to patient names and dates of birth and without the knowledge or consent of doctors or patients, to Google should be deeply unsettling,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told The Hill.
Project Nightingale is hardly the company’s only experiment with health data. Google also struck a deal with the Mayo Clinic to store its health data over the next ten years. Earlier this month, it announced it had acquired Fitbit, prompting concerns from privacy advocates about how Google would use the personal data collected from Fitbit wearable devices, which track a variety of health metrics.