Hospitals have reportedly granted Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, and Google access to detailed patient information as part of deals to process millions of medical records.
The Wall Street Journal reports that hospitals have given Big Tech giants Microsoft, IBM, and Google access to identifiable patient information as part of deals to process millions of medical records. The digitization of patient medical records and privacy laws allowing companies to swap patient data have set hospitals as the primary gatekeepers of how sensitive personal information is shared.
Lisa Bari, a consultant and former lead for health information technology for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Center, commented that: “Hospitals are massive containers of patient data.” Bari added that hospitals are allowed to share patient data as long as they comply with federal privacy laws, which contain limited consumer protections. “The data belongs to whoever has it,” said Bari.
The WSJ outlined some of the deals between tech giants and hospitals, writing:
Microsoft and Providence, a hospital system with data for about 20 million patient visits a year, are developing cancer algorithms by using doctor’s notes in patient medical records. The notes haven’t been stripped of personally identifiable information, according to Providence, which is based in Renton, Wash.
An agreement between IBM and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to jointly develop artificial intelligence allows the Boston-based hospital to share personally identifiable data for specific requests, people involved in the agreement said. So far the hospital hasn’t shared data on that basis and has no current plans to do so, according to hospital and IBM officials.
Other companies with direct access to user data include Amazon and Google’s parent company Alphabet:
The Journal also recently reported that Google has access to more records than first disclosed in a deal with the Mayo Clinic. Mayo officials say the deal allows the Rochester, Minn., hospital system to share personal information, though it has no current plans to do so. “It was not our intention to mislead the public,” said Cris Ross, Mayo’s chief information officer.
Dr. David Feinberg, head of Google Health, said Google is one of many companies with hospital agreements that allow the sharing of personally identifiable medical data to test products used in treatment and operations. The companies typically don’t disclose their use of such data, Dr. Feinberg said. “We didn’t hide it.”
Read more about the growing relationships between the Masters of the Universe in Silicon Valley and U.S. hospitals at the Wall Street Journal here.