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Privacy Would Be Major Challenge For Google In The Health Care Segment, Shows A Lawsuit

Privacy Would Be Major Challenge For Google In The Health Care Segment, Shows A Lawsuit
A case filed against Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center accused the two of not being diligent enough to protect privacy of patients. The lawsuit claims that patients could be identified from data stored with the two defendants because they did not erase date stamps or doctor’s notes embedded in medical records of hundreds of thousands of patients.
For tech companies like Google and other that are planning to venture into the health care segment, this case represents a major challenge. According to analysts, there would be increased scrutiny of such companies about whether appropriate measures for data protection had been undertaken – especially in the manner in which third parties are allowed to approach and target ads to customers. There is also likelihood of increased regulations on the companies by the government.
The health care segment was also flustered after a disclosure by a UK government privacy watchdog that Google DeepMind had been given patient data of 1.6 million people by a hospital illegally for a new health care app. Following that incident Google was forced to appoint a specialist from the health system - David Feinberg, to rearrange the health care business plans and generate greater synergy between the various teams. Following that appointment, a number of such units have been merged with Google Health such as the health division of its Deep Mind which previously had its headquarters in London. None of the Google products or services were linked to patient data, DeepMind has said.
The University of Chicago and Google have been working together since 2017 and have been striving to achieve what they said would “create predictive models that could help prevent unplanned hospital readmissions, avoid costly complications and save lives.”
The case was filed on the behalf of a patient with the University of Chicago Medical Center - Matt Dinerstein. According to the lawsuit, it is possible to identify patients on the basis of dates of service because “Google — as one of the most prolific data mining companies — is uniquely able to determine the identity of every medical record the University released.” This means that the location of people is already known to Google along with their searches and their interests and that information could be used to identify a specific individual together with dates of service, at least in theory. The lawsuit also accused the university of engaging in consumer fraud and fraudulent business practices since it failed to maintain confidentiality of patent’s private records.
“We believe our healthcare research could help save lives in the future, which is why we take privacy seriously and follow all relevant rules and regulations in our handling of health data. In particular, we take compliance with HIPAA seriously, including in the receipt and use of the limited data set provided by the University of Chicago,” Google said in a statement.
There was no merit in the lawsuit, claimed the medical center.
“That research partnership was appropriate and legal and the claims asserted in this case are baseless and a disservice to the Medical Center’s fundamental mission of improving the lives of its patients,” a spokesperson said. “The University and the Medical Center will vigorously defend this action in court.”

Christopher J. Mitchell

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