The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland wrote that the data amassed in the program includes “lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth,” and that as many as 150 Google employees may have had access to the data.
In a statement, a Google spokesperson said the company was “running a user feedback program to test features that give users the ability to collect health information from their provider patient portals,” and added that any health data gathered as part of the feedback program will not be sold or used for Google ads. The information will be encrypted and stored in the cloud, the spokesperson said.While the tech giant is not directly partnering with any organizations for the program, it has reached out to at least four health systems to alert them of the effort, including the University of California, Davis; UCSF; Alameda Health System in Oakland, Calif.; and Access Community Health Network in Chicago.
advertisementBob Wachter, who chairs the department of medicine at the UCSF and has advised Google on its health records work on a noncompensatory basis, told STAT he was impressed but not blown away by the company’s latest health records initiative.
“It didn’t knock my socks off,” he said, but “I think they’re doing it in a thoughtful, measured, and mature way. And it seems like they’re making progress.”The move follows Google’s other recent health records work in Care Studio, a search tool that assists clinicians with navigating patients’ medical records. Earlier this month, the tech giant named Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center its second hospital partner, joining the hospital chain Ascension as part of the pilot program. The effort drew widespread criticism over the organizations’ patient data-sharing agreement, which Google and Ascension said was compliant with federal health data privacy rules.
In the coming months, Wachter said he hopes to see Google add more functionality to Care Studio, for example by smoothing its workflow integration and incorporating more features aimed at improving patient care. Wachter, having advised technology companies on their health efforts since the early 2000s, said he has witnessed a number of tech giants including Google try and fail to create new versions of the electronic health record (EHR). Looking forward, he hopes to see more companies take a similar approach to Google’s most recent effort, which essentially builds assistive tools that layer on top of the existing EHR, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
CNBC later reported, and the companies confirmed, that they had signed an industry-standard agreement that allows for some sharing of protected health information under the current health privacy rules, known as HIPAA, but forbids either company from using that data for any purpose but to provide patient care.
“I think we’re entering an era where we have our EHR, but there are tools that help us use it in a better, faster, and safer way.”
Whose Data Is It, Anyway?