Google on Tuesday defended a project aimed at modernizing healthcare while giving it access to the medical data of millions of people.
Reports that Google was amassing medical data prompted a blog post by the Internet giant revealing a project code-named “Nightingale,” evidently in tribute to Florence Nightingale, whose nursing work during the 1853 to 1856 Crimean War is credited with turning nursing into a profession.
The news also caused the Office for Civil Rights in the US Department of Health and Human Services to launch an inquiry to make sure Google was obeying laws regarding keeping people’s medical information private, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Google has made no secret of its collaboration with healthcare providers on computing tools to improve patient care.
In the post, Google released information about a collaboration with US health systems non-profit Ascension that includes moving data and analytics to a private, secure cloud hosted by the Internet firm.
Ascension could also use Google computing tools to allow employees to communicate and collaborate securely in real time from different sites, the post by Google cloud industry products and solutions president Tariq Shaukat said.
“All of Google’s work with Ascension adheres to industry-wide regulations regarding patient data, and come with strict guidance on data privacy, security and usage,” Shaukat wrote.
“To be clear: under this arrangement, Ascension’s data cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing these services we’re offering under the agreement, and patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data,” he wrote.
Google disclosed little about what it is testing in Project Nightingale as it competes to be the preferred platform for patients and healthcare providers.
“It is a shame that the rush of distrust is hitting this one for Google,” Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle said. “This is actually them trying to do something good. Project Nightingale is, for the most part, intended to improve the quality of healthcare.”
Google’s cloud team works with dozens of healthcare providers on technology to analyze medical data and make it readily available to patients, and those treating them, the company said.
“Google is really doubling-down on healthcare,” Wedbush Research managing director Daniel Ives said. “Healthcare is really the next frontier that Google, Amazon, IBM, Apple and others are going after.”
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