All the big tech companies are now expanding their business to other fields. Google, Amazon, and Apple are trying to make their reach in the healthcare sector. The companies have launched or planning to launch healthcare wearable devices. There were reports that Google was trying to buy Fitbit so that it can enter the healthcare as well. And now, a report from The Wall Street Journal accused Google of collecting healthcare reports of millions of Americans from 21 states under the project named “Project Nightingale”
The report says “ The data for “Project Nightingale” involves lab results, doctor diagnoses, and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth.” The report says that as many as 150 employees have access to the data.
In response to this report, Google has clarified that this step is completely legal. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 allows hospitals to share patient data with third-party companies assuming that sharing is “only to help the covered entity carry out its health care functions.”
According to a spokesperson Google, the only purpose of such an agreement is to provide services back to the health care provider, and that it didn’t announce it was doing so earlier because work was in the very early stages. Google is in a partnership with Ascension, a Catholic health care system based in St. Louis that operates across 21 states and the District of Columbia. As a part of Project Nightingale, Ascension uploaded patient data to Google’s Cloud servers.
A press release from Ascension says “the whole purpose of this partnership was to Optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities, and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities.” It also said that “All work related to Ascension’s engagement with Google is HIPAA compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension’s strict requirements for data handling.” A blog from Google has also confirmed the partnership with Ascension and the purpose behind it.