According to financial documents, Ascension provided $2 billion in healthcare money via community benefit programs. They operate at 2,600 facilities (including 150 hospitals and 50+ senior living sights) across 20 states. Among the services provided by the company are physician practice management, venture capital investing, investment management, biomedical engineering, facilities management, clinical care management, information services, and risk management.
So how do both parties cooperate exactly? According to the statements released, Google helps to store and analyze the data of millions of patients at their cloud computing platform.
Though it is legal for health systems to share patients’ medical information with their business partners for certain matters, Google proves not to be trustworthy. The company was fined multiple times in the past for privacy laws violations as they disclosed personal medical data.
Google claimed they’ve announced the arrangement in a July report but this is hardly could be called a loud announcement. The Wall Street Journal publication made the hell break loose.
The New York Times posses internal documents that open sme insights on how the two companies (Google and Ascension) cooperate. In the moment, they are testing the software that allows medical providers make a search of patient’s EHR filtered by categories.
The overall goal is to provide physicians with the better access to patient data, hance improve the quality of the care due to visualized insights gotten from the data that has potential to help treatment.
It is a part with Google’s competition with other tech giants for medical expansion. Apple uses medical research virtual medical research data from iPhones and watches. Microsoft, in turn, introduced cloud-based tools to help health systems share medical data.
Google announced plans to acquire Fitbit, a producer of activity tracking devices, for $2.1 billion. The company assured in advance that health data received from the trackers will not be used for ads.
In case with Ascension, no pre-emptive statement were released. Under the Ascension partnership, certain number of Google employees receive access to patient data that could be considered sensitive. Name, birthdate, race, illnesses and treatment are available to some members of Medical Brain, Google’s AI health team.
Some of Ascension employees were concerned about the fact Google associates downloaded these data, according to the internal documents. Also, it is unclear whether HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was violated during the processing of patient’s data.
It is important to note that after WSJ article saw the light, Ascension representatives said that the deal WAS complied with the law. They also claimed that Google could not use it for any purpose other than providing tools for Ascension medical providers.
“We are proud to announce…”
The next day after the article by WSJ saw the light, on November, 12th, Google Cloud released official statement regarding the situation as media expressed concerns and wanted blood.
Tariq Shaukat, the president of Google Cloud, said in the statement “we hope to transform the delivery of health care.”