St. Louis-based Ascension, the second-largest health system in the US, is sharing lab results, diagnoses and hospitalization records, as well as health histories complete with patient names and dates of birth, with Google, according to the WSJ report.
A person familiar with the matter told WSJ that at least 150 Google employees have access to data on tens of millions of patients, calling it "Project Nightingale". The data is reportedly used by Google to design new AI-driven software. The details include height, weight and age; every appointment, vital sign, allergy, test, surgery, procedure and scan; and any prescription drugs you take or have taken in the past.
Forbes reports that as part of Project Nightingale, Ascension uploaded patient data to Google’s Cloud servers. The idea was that by using the system, Ascension health providers could use a tool called Patient Search and pull up individual patient pages. According to Forbes, who says they viewed a presentation on the topic, “The page includes complete patient information as well as notes about patient medical issues, test results and medications, including information from scanned documents.”
An earlier press release issued today by Ascension after the WSJ article was published announced their partnership with Google and said that its goal was to “optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities, and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities.”
“All work related to Ascension’s engagement with Google is HIPAA compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension’s strict requirements for data handling,” the press release reads.
Google has previously been accused of inappropriately accessing hundreds of thousands of health care records through the University of Chicago Medical Center. Google had partnered with the University of Chicago Medical Center in 2017 to develop machine learning tools capable of “accurately predicting medical events — such as whether patients will be hospitalized, how long they will stay, and whether their health is deteriorating despite treatment for conditions such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, or heart failure,” the company said in a blog post.