UPDATED 22:11 EST / NOVEMBER 11 2019

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Google has been gathering health data on millions of US citizens in hospital partnership

Google LLC has been busily collecting health data on millions of Americans across 21 states, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The initiative, which Google seemed to have kept secret from the public, is codenamed “Project Nightingale.” Documents obtained by the Journal reveal that the heath data has been shared in partnership with St. Louis-based chain of hospitals called Ascension, a Catholic hospital that calls itself “a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care.”

The data that has been acquired seems to cover quite a lot, with the name, address and birth date of patients being handed over to Google, as well as hospital records, diagnoses, allergy information, medication history, lab results and more.

Neither the patients nor the doctors were made aware that this partnership had been formed, while scores of Google employees now have access to many patients’ full medical history, according to the Journal. That is caused some people to ask questions about privacy.

As the news broke, Ascension issued a press release and discussed the deal it has with the tech giant. The organization said the new partnership will only optimize health and wellness for its customers, adding that working with Google is the way forward.

“As the healthcare environment continues to rapidly evolve, we must transform to better meet the needs and expectations of those we serve as well as our own caregivers and healthcare providers,” said Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president for strategy and innovations at Ascension. “Doing that will require the programmatic integration of new care models delivered through the digital platforms, applications and services that are part of the everyday experience of those we serve.”

The press release mentioned a number of ways Ascension will use Google’s technologies that included using Google Cloud, productivity tools and artificial intelligence and machine learning applications.

Tariq Shaukat, president of Google Cloud, said the company was proud to be part of the initiative. “By working in partnership with leading healthcare systems like Ascension, we hope to transform the delivery of healthcare through the power of the cloud, data analytics, machine learning, and modern productivity tools, ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs and saving lives,” he said.

Photo: nursingschoolsnearme/Flickr

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