Google feels heat over medical record market quest: WSJ

Google feels heat over medical record market quest: WSJ

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | January 15, 2020
Business Affairs Health IT

The Google trove of Ascension data, stressed the reports, was not anonymized by removing personal data through standard de-identification techniques.

The search giant has cut deals with other healthcare providers beyond Ascension. These include smaller organizations like the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine — although that data was encrypted by the healthcare provider.

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Google's healthcare data efforts raised alarms back in 2017 as well, when 1.6 million records of patients at the Royal Free hospital in London were obtained by its DeepMind Health efforts in a way that was determined to be on an “inappropriate legal basis” by a U.K. watchdog group.

Other partnerships Google has made include one with Mayo Clinic, in September 2019, created to tackle “complex health care problems.” Patient data would remain private and devoid of identifiable personal information, Mayo officials said at the time.

But in fact that deal did allow Google to access identifiable information. “It was not our intention to mislead the public,” Mayo chief information officer Cris Ross told the journal in its latest report.

The article also referenced an interview with head of Google Health, Dr. David Feinberg, which it called his “first extensive interview since joining the search giant last January.”

“I came here to make people healthy, I’m not here to sell them ads,” Feinberg told the paper. “Google is so good at being helpful. We want to be helpful with knowledge, success, health and happiness.”

But he did acknowledge early missteps. At the beginning there was no clear understanding of how the experimental efforts might evolve. “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Feinberg told the publication.

He did acknowledge that there is a credibility issue due to these earlier miscues.

“There’s a disbelief that what we say we’re doing is what we are actually doing. And I think that’s Google’s fault,” he confessed, adding, “there have been missteps, right? We’ve got to own that. And that’s why we’ve got to do even better.”

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