Google has unveiled its partnership with Ascension, one of U.S.’s largest healthcare providers, hours after a Wall Street Journal article revealed that the search giant has been collecting detailed personal health data without notifying the doctors or patients.
The report detailed “Project Nightingale”, a collaboration between Google and Ascension to create a predictive patient care program. Wall Street Journal wrote that around 150 Google employees had access to lab results, doctor diagnoses, and hospitalization records amounting to a complete health history, with patient names and dates of birth, all without notifying doctors or patients.
As a non-profit organization, Ascension operates more than 2,600 sites across 21 states, including 151 hospitals and more than 50 senior care facilities.
Google has been fiercely competing in the healthcare space. Over the years, it has worked with healthcare organizations including Cleveland Clinic, American Cancer Society, and Doctors on Demand. At its Google I/O 2018 keynote, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai demonstrated how AI can be used to diagnose diabetic retinopathy.
Both Google and Ascension released their respective press releases just hours after the Wall Street Journal’s article was published.
In its press release, Google maintained that its work complies with industry regulations. It specifically mentioned the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a law passed in 1996 that outlines the protection and confidential handling of sensitive health data. HIPAA restricts how doctors and healthcare providers can share and use patient information.
Google also detailed its other projects with Ascension. Aside from creating healthcare AI solutions, it’s also looking to host Ascension’s infrastructures and providing G Suite productivity tools.
Ascension said that all data is guarded by “robust data security and protection effort”.