Google has struck a deal for access to HCA’s patient records, which are operates 181 hospitals and more than 2,000 healthcare facilities in 21 states so that the technology company can develop healthcare algorithms, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Google stores anonymized data from patient medical records and internet-connected medical devices. That data will be used to build programs that can inform doctors’ medical decisions. The deal is passed by the WSJ, without specifying how many years.
While medical records have gone online in recent years, hospitals and technology companies have seized opportunities to take advantage of the abundance of digitized medical information gathered at every doctor’s visit. Microsoft and Amazon also have deals with hospitals to analyze their patient information. Google previously partnered with the Ascension healthcare system to collect patient records in a secret project called ‘Project Nightingale’. The company was criticized for starting the project without disclosing the work to patients and doctors. HCA has been a big win for Google ever since its facilities handle 5 percent of hospital services provided in the US – approximately 30 million patient interactions annually.
In addition to using that data to develop algorithms, Google could also independently build healthcare tools and then pass them on to HCA for its own testing. “We want to push the boundaries of what the clinician can do with data in real time,” said Chris Sakalosky, director of healthcare and life sciences at Google Cloud. The Wall Street Journal.
US health care privacy laws allow hospitals to share information with contractors and allow researchers analysis of patient data without the express consent of those patients. Healthcare companies can use that information in any way they see fit, including to increase profits.
HCA made $ 3.75 billion in profits in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. National Nurses United said in February that the company prioritized income over the safety of patients and staff. Nurses reported staff shortages and cuts to personal protective equipment.