Alphabet Inc.’s Google and national hospital chain HCA Healthcare Inc. have struck a deal to develop healthcare algorithms using patient records, the latest foray by a tech giant into the $3 trillion healthcare sector.
Nashville, Tenn.,-based HCA, which operates across about 2,000 locations in 21 states, would consolidate and store with Google data from digital health records and internet-connected medical devices under the multiyear agreement. Google and HCA engineers will work to develop algorithms to help improve operating efficiency, monitor patients and guide doctors’ decisions, according to the companies.
“Data are spun off of every patient in real time,” said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, HCA’s chief medical officer. “Part of what we’re building is a central nervous system to help interpret the various signals.”
The deal expands Google’s reach in healthcare, where the recent shift to digital records has created an explosion of data and a new market for technology giants and startups. Data crunching offers the opportunity to develop new treatments and improve patient safety, but algorithm-development deals between hospitals and tech companies have also raised privacy alarms.
Google has previously reached deals with other prominent U.S. hospital systems, including St. Louis-based Ascension, that granted access to personal patient information, drawing public scrutiny. Other tech giants have struck similar deals.
Dr. Perlin said HCA patient records would be stripped of identifying information before being shared with Google data scientists and that the hospital system would control access to the data. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed by the companies.
Google will access data when needed with consent from HCA, but the tech giant can develop analytic tools without patient records and allow HCA to test the models independently, said Chris Sakalosky, managing director of healthcare and life sciences at Google Cloud. “We want to push the boundaries of what the clinician can do in real time with data,” he said.
Personal patient information is protected under the federal health-privacy law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The law allows hospitals and some other healthcare companies, such as health insurers, to share information with contractors, which must also abide by the law’s privacy protections.