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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Google accesses the medical records of millions of patients through Project Nightingale

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

It is called Project Nightingale and it is the initiative fielded by Google in collaboration with Ascension that covers medical records and medical data belonging to millions of people in 21 US states. A project that will not fail to make people talk. In truth it is already happening: according to the leaked information, initially from the pages of the Wall Street Journal, neither the doctors nor the patients involved have been informed about it.

Google and Ascension for Project Nightingale

What information are you talking about? Results of laboratory tests, diagnostic investigations conducted by specialized personnel, chronology of hospitalizations and history of pathologies. All completed by name, surname and date of birth. According to what emerged, at least 150 employees of the Mountain View group would have already had the opportunity to consult them. The potential implications of privacy are clear.

Asked about the matter, Google confirmed the rumor, entrusting the editorial staff of The Verge with a brief statement in which it defines a common practice for the health care industry: it is not unusual for a provider like Ascension to offer services and solutions for data management share a part with those who work in the hi-tech field through a contract aimed at creating ad hoc developed tools. According to the company, it is not unusual for patients not to be warned either.

AI and health learning machine learning

According to what has emerged, bigG has never announced its collaboration with Ascension (based in St. Louis, Missouri) to date as the project is still in its early stages. The stated goal is to create software that can support medical staff in prescribing a therapy by leveraging the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Further details have been published by Forbes. The information has been uploaded to Google’s cloud infrastructure servers. Part of Project Nightingale is a tool called Patient Search which shows the tab for a specific patient with annotations on reported symptoms, laboratory test results, prescribed therapies and data taken from document scanning. The confirmation by Ascension was not long in coming. Below is an extract.

Ascension, one of the country’s leaders in health-related non-profit systems, is working with Google to optimize the health and well-being of people and communities, offering a complete portfolio of digital tools to improve the experience of his clients, patients and those who manage the care clinics.

Medical data and patient privacy

Another passage refers to the full respect of the rules included in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the US law that defines the methods of treatment of medical information.

The work related to the collaboration between Ascension and Google is HIPAA compliant and supported by robust data security as well as the protection guaranteed by strict information management requirements.

The official statement also came from bigG. An intervention that highlights how medical data will never be used for purposes other than those provided for in the signed contract.

To be clear: with this agreement Ascension data cannot be used for purposes other than the provision of the services offered and foreseen by the collaboration. Patient information cannot and can never be crossed with that of Google users.

The project is in the hands of a dozen engineers associated with the Google Cloud division. A collection that would be accessible in ‘Patient Search’, a tool that allows doctors and other health professionals to access a page with all the health information of patients.

From Revyuh, we have contacted Google to learn more details of this initiative. We will update the information when we get an answer.

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