Google has confirmed that it is working with Ascension, one of the nation’s largest health systems in a project that will involve the health data of millions of Americans. Google and Ascension have partnered in a project to store and analyze patient data with the intended goal of using Google’s artificial intelligence tools to enhance patient care and medical decision making. As a result of this partnership, it has been estimated that over 100 Google employees may have access to sensitive patient data such as name, birth date, diagnoses and treatments. Such access by Google to millions of patient’s health data has resulted in some concern over how the data will be protected, including a recently announced inquiry into the relationship by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). OCR has stated that it “would like to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals’ medical records with respect to the implication for patient privacy under HIPAA.” Ascension has said that the project with Google has complied with the law and followed the healthcare organization’s “strict requirements for data handling.”
We will continue to follow this important story. Several other tech companies continue to try to gain a bigger share of America’s health care market, which will all have to be balanced with patient data privacy and security concerns.