Google is involved with one of the U.S.’s major healthcare systems on a venture to collect and crunch the comprehensive personal-health information of millions of people within 21 states. The project between Google and Ascension (the country’s second-largest hospital system) announced the data collection is for the improvement of medical services. The collaboration, code-named “Project Nightingale”, began in secret last year, according to the reports.
The Catholic, non-profit has more than 34,000 providers and operates in 20 states and District of Columbia with 150 hospitals running all over these states. Under the agreement, Ascension patient’s data is eventually uploaded to Google’s cloud computing platform. The publication adds that as many as 150 Google staff may have had access to the data and that some could have downloaded it.
The collaboration will give Google access to datasets that could help it tune its potentially beneficial artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Ascension said in a statement the agreement would also explore artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to help improve clinical effectiveness, along with patient safety. Many called for an instant change to privacy laws after Google – Ascension partnership, the healthcare business it has combined with, boasted that the venture is completely legal.
Dr. Robert Epstein, an author, medical researcher and former editor-in-chief at Psychology Today, summed up the mood when he tweeted: ‘You can’t make this s*** up. #BeAfraid.’ At the time of the acquisition, many of the company’s 28million users announced they were throwing their devices away for fear of Google getting its hands on potentially sensitive medical information. The company formerly had hyped smaller healthcare clients, such as the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine.
The Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian, has made it a main concern in his first year on the job to relentlessly chase business from leaders in six industries, including healthcare. Google recently announced plans to buy Fitbit Inc. for $2.1bn, aiming to enter the wearable’s market and invest in digital health.