Google Taking A Bigger Role in Health Care


    By Kennedy Shelley

    One of America’s largest data companies has its sights set on major medical databases.

    The Wall Street Journal reported on November 12, 2019, that Google has taken over the data management of Ascension Health Care.

    This means the detailed personal health care information of nearly 50 million Americans in the network.

    Ascension is the nation’s second-largest health care system.  The hope of Ascension is that Google will be able to control the vast amount of data generated by 50 million patients.

    But privacy experts are concerned that the tech giant will gain access to highly private information of millions.

    The medical records of millions have quietly been transferred to the world’s largest data company over the last few months.

    The data is going to Google’s cloud servers so that it can be accessed more effectively by Ascension staff, but it is also available to Google employees.

    This is happening in 21 states and none of the people who are covered by this scheme have been informed about this change.

    And Google is going to be helping to make medical decisions about patient care.

    Here is how Google is going to use the data and make medical recommendations according to company web sites:

    Ascension says that Google will not use the data to sell ads.  But there is no such public assurance from Google, nor have they made any public commitment not to use the data to do research.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that if Google does independent health research using the data it will run afoul of privacy rules, but Google insiders are checking to see what is possible to research using the hodgepodge of data from Ascension.

    Google may be the first, but Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon are looking to get into the health care market.

    Add to this that Google has now become a pharmaceutical company, the parent company of Google, Alphabet owns two drug companies.  Both of these companies are partnering with other Pharma companies.

    It is raising eyebrows that Dr. Joseph Mercola doesn’t pop up in Google search results anymore.  Dr. Mercola is adamantly anti-pharmaceutical.

    Google has also removed links to anti-vaccination groups and information.

    And they also make it difficult to find sites that show its involvement in the pharmaceutical industry.

    Will Google be tempted to suggest their drugs to the doctors in the network like they do when it comes to our shopping preferences?

    If you notice when you search for something such as a hot water heater, you start getting Google ads on various sites for hot water heaters for months following the search.

    In other words, there are some things to be concerned about with Google having access and control to the data at one of the largest health care providers in the US.

    Imagine now that Google has automatic access to your MRI, blood tests and other health data.

    Is Google doing this out of the goodness of their hearts?  According to public documents Google is not being paid to host the data and create the interface with doctors and providers.  But they are a for-profit company, so they do have a profit motive.

    At this point, some politicians are starting to ask that the plan be put on hold, but as of now, it is happening.