Google, U of Chicago hit with lawsuit over patient data sharing

The University of Chicago Medical Center and Google were served with a lawsuit on June 26 that alleges the hospital violated HIPAA by sharing thousands of patients' records with the technology giant without hiding date stamps or physicians' notes, according to The New York Times.

Google partnered with the University of Chicago and its medical center in 2017. The goal was to unlock data within patient records and improve predictive analysis. Google has been exploring ways technology can be used to read EHRs and help physicians identify medical conditions.

"We believe our health care 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," a Google spokesperson told NYT.

The University of Chicago has denied the allegations of wrongdoing.

"The claims in this lawsuit are without merit," a university spokesperson told NYT. "The University of Chicago Medical Center has complied with the laws and regulations applicable to patient privacy."

The lawsuit claims that the University of Chicago Medical Center and Google violated HIPAA because the records used for research included date stamps of when patients checked in and checked out of the hospital.

Google published a research paper last year that included EHR data from University of Chicago Medicine patients from 2009 to 2016. The records included patient demographics, diagnoses, procedures, medication and other data. Google said it "de-identified" the records, but "dates of services were maintained."

The lawsuit did not offer evidence that Google misused patient information. The university has been accused of consumer fraud and fraudulent business practices.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former University of Chicago Medical Center patient who visited the hospital on two occasions in June 2015.

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