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Google to use ‘patient data’ to develop healthcare algorithms

Google has teamed with the US hospital group HCA Healthcare to develop healthcare algorithms based on patient data, according to media reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google will acquire access to patient data from HCA, which oversees 181 hospitals and nearly 2,000 healthcare centers across 21 states.

The story said on Wednesday that “under the multi-year agreement, HCA will integrate and maintain data from digital health records and internet-connected medical equipment with Google.”

Google will store anonymized health information and data from medical equipment that is linked to the internet.

The article states that this data will be used to build systems to aid healthcare practitioners in making medical decisions.

Not just Google, but also Microsoft and Amazon are examining patient data and creating similar AI/ML-based algorithms in an attempt to break into the $3 trillion healthcare industry.

In 2019, claims surfaced that Google was gathering health data on millions of individuals in the United States – without alerting them or their doctors – in order to create artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ascension, a St. Louis-based faith-based healthcare institution, was supposedly sharing test results, diagnoses, and hospitalization information with Google, as well as health records complete with patient names and dates of birth.

“Acquiring a footing in the healthcare market via the processing of patient health data seems to be the largest attempt made so far by a Silicon Valley magic, coded Nightingale Project.”

In a blog post, Google sought to clarify its connection with Ascension.

“All of Google’s work with Ascension conforms with industry-wide laws controlling patient data and adheres to stringent data protection, security, and use requirements,” Tariq Shaukat, President, Industry Products and Solutions, Google Cloud, remarked.

Google previously said that it has a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Ascension that governs access to Protected Health Information (PHI) for the purpose of assisting doctors in delivering patient care.

“To be clear, Ascension data cannot and will not be combined with Google’s consumer data for any purpose other than to provide the services specified in the agreements,” the firm said.

In 2017, Google partnered with the University of Chicago Medical Center to develop machine learning algorithms capable of “accurately anticipating medical events — such as whether patients would need hospitalization, for how long, and if their health would worsen despite treatment for diseases such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, or heart failure.”

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Written by Ankur J Kakoti

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