What Google is Doing With Your Health Data

What Google is Doing with Your Health Data

The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights is investigating Google for how they collect health data on users. Google’s “Project Nightingale” program has collected massive amounts of health data on millions of Americans.

The office is hoping to learn more about how Google was collecting and using this data. It is concerned with possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which protects patients’ privacy rights.

Google is operating Project Nightingale in cooperation with Ascension. Ascension is a nonprofit Catholic health care organization and one of the nation’s largest health care systems. The program was designed to give health care providers greater insights into a patient’s health. It would integrate different areas of Ascension’s health data in the cloud.

The program was not widely publicized. Both Google and Ascension did not release statements until the Wall Street Journal published an investigation on Project Nightingale. Neither patients nor doctors were notified about their participation.   

According to the investigation, at least 150 Google employees had access to patient health data. Google says that they are obeying regulatory standards, including HIPAA. Google also states that the patient data cannot be used outside of the purposes of the program, and that patient data will not be tied to the individual’s consumer data.

Data about patients includes diagnoses, lab results, hospitalization records and complete health histories. It also includes information like patient name and date of birth.

It is not a violation of HIPAA for health care providers to share data with their business partners without notifying patients. As long as the data is used to help the provider carry out its functions, the hospital is in compliance.
Google claims the program will improve outcomes, reduce costs and save lives. The software, powered by artificial intelligence (A.I.), identifies individual patients and suggests customized care. The system may suggest outcomes that affect treatment plans, care teams and billing. Ascension says they participated because they wish to improve their level of care for their patients by transforming how they design care.

Google is offering the program to Ascension at no cost. Google hopes to eventually market the Project Nightingale service to other health care systems.   Project Nightingale signals Google’s effort to enter the health care industry. Other tech companies are also hoping to enter the trillion-dollar health economy. One way to do that is to charge health care providers for access to the vast amounts of consumer data tech companies have.

Ascension, like the rest of the health care industry, is looking for a solution to decentralized records. Tech companies offer cloud services that may be able to help health care create a streamlined records system. However, major tech companies like Google have come under frequent and high-profile scrutiny for questionable user data practices.

Protecting user privacy is among the top priority for any business. Whether you’re handling sensitive information for millions of customers or hosting a website, you must keep privacy top of mind.

Talk to  IDMI.Net  today to learn how you can build a site that promotes your business while protecting your customers’ privacy.