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Google to collect and analyse millions of US healthcare records

By Yana Berman

Deal with Ascension permits Google to access and analyse American medical records – but patients don’t know it yet

Google's major cloud computing deal with US healthcare provider Ascension will help the company to get access to millions of personal healthcare records across the country, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The deal has not drawn much attention until this week, when WSJ revealed that Google will gain access to personal healthcare data of millions of Americans in 21 states.

Google will reportedly use the data to develop new software based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. The system will be able to analyse patient data and offer them to change treatment, if necessary.

Google started working with Ascension, which runs 150 hospitals and over 50 senior living centres across the US, in 2018. Within the framework of the project Ascension stored some of its data and analytics tools on Google's servers.

The journal claims that lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalisation records are now available to at least 150 Google employees. Moreover, the package also contains patient names and dates of birth, which forms a complete health history.

According to the report, neither patients nor doctors were aware of the collection of personal data by Google. Some of the Ascension employees were previously concerned about the legitimacy of the whole deal.

Ascension insists in its press release that the data transmission is in conformity with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which says that business partners can receive personal medical information without the permission of the patients if it is necessary for the healthcare process.

In a blog post dedicated to the issue Google wrote that patient data will not be combined with any Google consumer data. Nor will it be used for any other purpose than providing healthcare services.

Google is facing scrutiny in the US due to an anti-trust investigation launched by local state attorneys.

FURTHER READING: US states to meet on Google anti-trust case

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