Google has collected millions of health records

By | November 12, 2019

Google and one of the nation’s largest health systems are reportedly working together to collect health information from millions of Americans without their knowledge.

Google and St. Louis-based Ascension began collecting patient lab results, diagnoses, and hospitalization records last year as part of an initiative they coined “Project Nightingale,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Ascension said Monday that it is trying to “deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities that enhance the experience of Ascension consumers, patients, and clinical providers across the continuum of care.”

Patients and physicians didn’t know that Google was collecting tens of millions of private health records as a part of Project Nightingale. The objective, an Ascension representative said, is to put all patient documents on Google’s cloud platform so that all Ascension employees can “communicate and collaborate securely in real-time.”

Google Cloud president Tariq Shaukat, said in Ascension’s statement, “By working in partnership with leading healthcare systems like Ascension, we hope to transform the delivery of healthcare through the power of the cloud, data analytics, machine learning, and modern productivity tools — ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives.”

Ascension and Google say Project Nightingale is compliant with the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, often called HIPAA for short, which was enacted to protect patient privacy and secure health information. Under HIPAA regulations, patients’ health records cannot be shared with anyone who doesn’t contribute to the patient’s care. For example, managers can’t get copies of medical records, and providers can’t disclose private information to other clinicians or the general public.