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Google, Amazon and Apple try to tap into health information to feed their analytics tools

Google, Amazon and Apple try to tap into health information to feed their analytics tools

Facebook's old slogan of "move fast and break things" remains valid in the digital world and inspires giants. The fact that Google, which is among the largest companies in the world, works with a large health system and finally acquired Fitbit, got the chance to access the data of millions of patients, created great controversy.

Some of the Silicon Valley companies have entered the healthcare industry the way they know best: data collection and analysis. Amazon sells software that can read medical records and make recommendations that could improve treatment. In addition, there are innovation development studies related to health and wellness initiatives through Amazon's smart voice assistant Alexa.

IBM's artificial intelligence program Watson is used in the making of new drugs, patient appointments, oncology and genome research. Following the same path as Amazon, Google is developing its artificial intelligence-based applications to help treat diabetes and detect cancer.

Microsoft also uses its cloud platform service Azure to control healthcare costs and monitor patient risk status. Apple, on the other hand, has been collecting health data for a long time with its health app and Apple Watch. Apple continues to collaborate with leading academia and research institutions in the healthcare industry.

Project Nightingale defense from Google

Google, whose reliability has been questioned by data breach scandals in previous years, came to the fore when it collected detailed health record information from millions of US citizens without permission as part of a study called Project Nightingale. According to the report published by the Wall Street Journal, while patient records were collected in 21 states in the USA, neither patients nor doctors were informed.

According to Rob Copeland, reporter of the Wall Street Journal, with Project Nightingale, many personal data such as patients' laboratory results, doctor's diagnoses, hospitalization records, patient name, date of birth were obtained unannounced by 150 Google employees.

Data can be saved!

The leading US newspaper, The New York Times, endorsed the Wall Street Journal's report, stating that "dozens of Googlers" may have access to sensitive patient data, and they are concerned that some Googlers may have downloaded some of that data.

Google announced that the agreement with the healthcare provider complies with standards for sharing highly sensitive health records with Google staff. A Google spokesperson stated that the project complies with the Federal Health Law and the sole purpose of the agreement is to serve the healthcare provider.

The goal may be to design new software

According to what is written in the media and spoken on social media, it is highly likely that Google will collect this data for a new artificial intelligence software. In a fierce competition with Apple and Amazon in the field of health, Google made purchases in the position of health manager to oversee many health initiatives in 2018. Aiming to create an artificial intelligence assistant for nurses and doctors, Google also announced that they are using DeepMind's health unit.

In 2017, Google signed a contract with the University of Chicago Medical Center to develop machine learning tools that can accurately predict medical events. Google, which has also been accused of improper access to hundreds of thousands of health records through this center, stated that one of its machine learning goals is to “anticipate the needs of patients”.

They can legally

Ascension, the second-largest healthcare organization in the United States, made a press release following the publication of the WSJ article, clarifying its partnerships with Google, stating that their goal is to “optimize the health and well-being of individuals and communities and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities.”

While Ascension announced that all work on its relationship with Google is HIPAA compliant and has a solid data security, Google published a blog post explaining that the name of the health project is "Nightingale" after the scandalous news reflected in the press.

The fact that the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) allows hospitals to share patients' data with business partners on the condition that they help provide healthcare suggests that what Google is doing isn't really a scandal.

It is predicted that there will be more information sharing due to the efforts of companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft to rise in the field of health. Time will tell what kind of system sharing will create.

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