Dr. David Feinberg says 'we're super proud' of Project Nightingale with Ascension

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Google Health leader David Feinberg, MD, continued to defend the company's partnership with St. Louis-based Ascension, nicknamed Project Nightingale, at the StartUp Health Festival, an event for biotech entrepreneurs, according to Forbes.

"Despite what they say in the newspapers, we're super proud of it," Dr. Feinberg said.

By partnering with Ascension, Google is amassing data on millions of patients to create a search engine for EHRs that will allow physicians to more easily look up patient records, test results and provider notes. Per the agreement, Ascension has moved its EHR to the Google Cloud.

Concerns were raised when Ascension employees reported that patients and providers were not aware that data was being shared with Google. However, Dr. Feinberg said that only a limited number of Google employees have access to the patient data.

"Think of it as a warehouse," he said, according to Forbes, "the only one that has the key to that record is Ascension."

Google is allowed to collect data from Ascension through a business associate agreement, which follows HIPAA guidelines. Today, Google only has access to patient data at two Ascension hospitals, "not three-quarters of the United States as The Wall Street Journal said," Dr. Feinberg reported, according to Forbes.

"The press has made this into something that it's not," Dr. Feinberg said. "This is not us mining somebody's records to sell ads, to learn from it, to do machine learning, to develop products."

The data Google employees are viewing is de-identified, and Dr. Feinberg confirmed that all employees have undergone HIPAA training.

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