Google cuts a deal to help develop health algorithms using patient data

The partnership with a national hospital chain will turn patient records across 21 states into health care analysis tools.

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Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
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Google has struck a deal with a national hospital chain to help develop health-focused algorithms, both companies said Wednesday. The algorithms will be built using patient records from hospital chain HCA Healthcare, which includes about 2,000 hospitals in 21 states. 

A joint statement from Google and HCA Healthcare said the hospital chain uses information from 32 million annual patient interactions and has already deployed 90,000 mobile devices that run its own health analysis software. Under the new deal, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Google will use its Cloud Healthcare API, analytics, and AI arms -- along with its massive BigQuery database -- to build custom tools for the chain. 

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The deal is designed to "empower physicians, nurses and others with workflow tools, analysis and alerts on their mobile devices to help clinicians respond quickly to changes in a patient's condition," the companies said in the statement. The partnership will also look to have an impact on nonclinical support areas, such as supply chain, human resources and physical plant operations, that might find workflow improvements through better use of data and insights.

HCA Healthcare will continue to own and control patient records, and Google won't be permitted access to patient-identifiable information, HCA's chief medical officer told the Journal. The health care company will use its own data to train machine learning models. 

This isn't the first time Google has interacted with health data. In 2019, Google was called to the carpet by US lawmakers for quietly collecting health data on millions of Americans, reportedly without informing them. The initiative, called Project Nightingale, was part of a deal with Ascension, the nation's second largest health care system. Neither Ascension nor Google spoke publicly about the deal until The Wall Street Journal reported on it. 

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