The probe "will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals' medical records to ensure that HIPAA protections" implemented.
- A federal regulator has opened up an inquiry into Google's partnership with the hospital system Ascension, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- The Journal first reported on the collaboration between the two companies and their efforts to collect personal health information on millions of Americans on Monday.
- Data such as lab results and hospital records were compiled for millions of people as part of the project, which has been termed "Project Nightingale," The Journal said.
- Neither patients nor doctors were notified, and at least 150 Google employees have access to the patients' data, the paper added.
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A federal regulator opened an inquiry into Google's partnership with the hospital system Ascension in order to determine whether their mass collection of individuals' medical records follows US privacy rules, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Roger Severino, the officer director for The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, told The Journal in a statement that its probe of the project "will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals' medical records to ensure that HIPAA protections were fully implemented."
HIPAA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which established national standards to protect individuals' personal health information.
News of the partnership between Google and Ascension was first reported by The Journal's Rob Copeland on Monday, citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter.
As part of the partnership, the companies plan to collect detailed personal health information from millions of Americans without their knowledge in an initiative that has been named "Project Nightingale."
According to The Journal's report, neither patients nor doctors were notified, and at least 150 Google employees have access to the data, which includes lab results, diagnoses, and hospital records and provides detailed information on people's health histories.
Google is using the patient data to tune artificial-intelligence software that may help improve patient care, according to the report. Tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are all working to expand in the $3.5 trillion US healthcare industry, with offerings ranging from cloud services and AI to hardware and even patient care.
Google told The Journal that the project complied with federal laws and that patient privacy was protected.
Ascension said in a statement that "all work related to Ascension's engagement with Google is HIPAA compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension's strict requirements for data handling."
Google referred Business Insider to Ascension's release. Ascension didn't respond to a request for further comment.
Ascension is one of the biggest health systems in the US, with about 150 hospitals. The health system generated about $25 billion in operating revenue last year.
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