Google Health Logo
Type of site
|Personal health record, AI|
|Launched||May 20, 2008|
Google Health is a branch of Google started in 2006. Originally designed as an to attempt to create a repository of health records and data (personal health record services), in order to connect doctors, hospitals and pharmacies directly. The project was introduced in 2008 and discontinued in 2012.
Starting in November 2018, Dr. David Feinberg was appointed lead. In 2019, it was announced they want more searchable medical records and to "improve the quality of health-focused search results across Google and YouTube". Google Health also appears to focus on health-related artificial intelligence research, clinical tools, and partnerships for other healthcare tools and services.
Google Health (2008–2012)
Google Health was the name given to a 2008–2012 version of a service allowed Google users to volunteer their health records—either manually or by logging into their accounts at partnered health services providers—into the Google Health system, thereby merging potentially separate health records into one centralized Google Health profile. Volunteered information could include "health conditions, medications, allergies, and lab results". Once entered, Google Health used the information to provide the user with a merged health record, information on conditions, and possible interactions between drugs, conditions, and allergies. Google Health's API was based on a subset of the Continuity of Care Record.
The original Google Health was under development from mid-2006, under ex-chief health strategist Dr. Roni Zeiger. In 2008, the service underwent a two-month pilot test with 1,600 patients of The Cleveland Clinic. Starting on May 20, 2008, Google Health was released to the general public as a service in beta test stage. On September 15, 2010, Google updated Google Health with a new look and feel.
On June 24, 2011, Google announced it was retiring Google Health on January 1, 2012; data was available for download through January 1, 2013. The reason Google gave for abandoning the project was the lack of widespread adoption. In 2012, Dr. Roni Zeiger left Google.
Google Health (2018–current)
Google Health in 2018 was the name given to a team working within Google, rather than a service or application, following a similarly named web service in 2008–2012.
In 2018, during a process codenamed "Tuscany," teams across combined consolidated into the new Google Health group. This included artificial-intelligence research teams Google Brain and DeepMind, as well as health teams from Nest Labs, the connected-home company Google bought in 2014.
Later in 2018, Google reorganized their healthcare efforts, and as a result DeepMind Health became part of Google Health. They began a non disclosed project called Project Nightingale, a partnership with Ascension, a large Catholic health care system in the United States. The project was headed by head Dr. David Feinberg, hired in November 2018 and his oversight includes Google Fit, health-oriented features in Google Search, G Suite for healthcare businesses, AI-based health research offerings, and Alphabet subsidiaries DeepMind Health, Verily, and Calico. At the 2019 HLTH health care conference, Feinberg announced Google Health is working on improvements with the search functions in electronic health records (EHR) and to improve health-related search results across their platforms.
In 2020, there were four areas of focus:
- Consumer tools : included work on search and maps to surface authoritative information
- Clinician tools : in partnerships with doctors and clinicians
- Imaging and diagnostics
- Research group
Google Health reportedly struck up deals to work with large health systems such as Ascension and Stanford Medicine, but talks with other major heath companies and organizations including CVS Health and the Gates Foundation had “fallen apart along the way”.
In November 2019, Google announced plans to acquire FitBit. The company also said “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.” The European Data Protection Board voiced privacy concerns in February 2020 about mass aggregation of data. In August 2020, EU regulators announced plans for an anticompetition probe into the deal.
"A quarter of Google Health's life has been spent during the coronavirus pandemic, and it's helped focus its search ambitions, partnerships with health officials, and collaboration across the company," chief health officer Dr. Karen DeSalvo said in August 2020. She described YouTube, Maps, Google Assistant, and Google search wanting to guide consumers on their healthcare experience, called the "Discovery to Action Pathway". This included searching for local testing sites, looking for doctors, and setting up an appointment.
In April 2020, Julie Black, Director of Product Management for Google Health, announced virtual care entries on Google Maps for medical businesses.[non-primary source needed] Searches for "immediate care" would also show widely-available virtual care platforms like Live Health Online, AmWell and Doctor on Demand.
In August 2020, Google announced an partnership with and investment in AmWell, a telemedicine company.[non-primary source needed] The two companies aim to use their technology capabilities for TeleHealthcare including artificial intelligence and collaboration tools. Google Cloud will also invest $100 million in Amwell.
YouTube chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki announced efforts to connect people to trusted information about the coronavirus pandemic. This included a COVID-19 news shelf, with videos from health authorities and news organizations. YouTube also said they were consulting on an ongoing basis with health authorities like the WHO and local organizations like the CDC, the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, and India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as well as expert medical and public health professionals, to design policies based on the latest science. YouTube updated its policies to prohibit content with harmful medical information, and removed over 200,000 videos for violating medical policies.[non-primary source needed]
At the same time, YouTube and other social media sites had been criticized by civil rights advocates and health experts. The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that hate groups and racist pundits had pushed misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic on mainstream social media platforms such as YouTube throughout the crisis, despite companies like YouTube’s parent company Google pledging to fight fake news about the virus. The SPLC pointed out that videos containing racist misinformation about COVID created by Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, a white supremacist organization, had been posted and disseminated on YouTube. The SPLC also noted that despite being banned from Twitter since 2018, American Renaissance’s YouTube channel and its 126,000 subscribers had remained, as of April 2020.
- Paul Muret – vice-president, Product and Engineering, previously co-founder of Urchin Software (acquired by Google)
- Julie Black, director of Product Management.
- Shashidhar (Shashi) Thakur – vice-president, Engineering
- Kristen Gil, chief operating officer, vice-president of BizOps, business finance officer
- Dr. Lily Peng – product manager, Research
- Dr. David Feinberg, vice-president and head, previously chief executive officer of Geisinger Health
- Mike Pearson – chief of staff
- Dr. Michael Howell, chief clinical strategist
- Dr. Alvin Rajkomar – research scientist
- Dr. Alan Karthikesalingam, research lead, UK
- Dr. Dominic King – director, UK lead
- Greg Corrado, distinguished scientist
- Afia Asamoah, head of Legal, previously senior product counsel at Verily Life Sciences
- Linda Peters – vice-president, Quality and Regulatory, previously executive vice-president and chief regulatory officer at Becton Dickinson
- Matt Klainer – vice-president, Business Development, previously vice-president of Google's consumer communications products group
- Dr. Robert Califf, advisor, Clinical Policy and Strategy, former FDA Commissioner
- Dr. Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer, former United States Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
- Jeff Dean, senior fellow, vice-president of Google artificial intelligence
- Yoky Matsuoka*, home-health monitoring, former co-founder of Google X, previously Nest CTO
- Virginia McFerran, formerly from UnitedHealth Group and managing partner at Optum Ventures
- Michael MacDonnell, COO of Sensyne Health, formerly director of Global Deployment at Google Health, previously Director of Strategy at NHS England
- Jessica Beegle, vice-president/general manager, Healthcare, Walgreens Boots Alliance, formerly Google Health and DeepMind Health global head of business development, previously Amazon Web Services global head of healthcare and life sciences partnerships.
The original Google Health (2008-2012), like many other Google products, was free to use for consumers. Unlike other Google services, however, Health contained no advertising. Google did not reveal how it planned to make money with the service, but a Wall Street Journal article said that Google "hasn't ruled [advertising] out for the future." Google filed in 2007, U.S. Patent Application #20070282632, "Method and apparatus for serving advertisements in an electronic medical record system".
Google Health (from 2008 to 2012) imported medical and/or drug prescription information from the following partners: Allscripts, Anvita Health, The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, The Cleveland Clinic, CVS Caremark, Drugs.com, Healthgrades, Longs Drugs, Medco Health Solutions, Quest Diagnostics, RxAmerica, and Walgreens.[non-primary source needed] In January 2010, the Withings WiFi Body scale enables Google Health users to seamlessly update their weight and other data to their online profiles. Users whose health records reside with other providers had to either manually enter their data or pay to have a Google Health partner perform the service. MediConnect Global was one such partner; for a fee, they would retrieve a user's medical records from around the world and add them to his or her profile.
In 2009, in response to demand for added convenience, Google Health began establishing relationships with tele-health providers that will allow their users to sync the data shared during tele-health consultations with their online health records partnerships have been formed with the following companies: MDLiveCare and Hello Health.[non-primary source needed]
Google Health (2008–2012)
The original Google Health was an opt-in service, meaning it could only access medical information volunteered by individuals. It did not retrieve any part of a person's medical records without his or her explicit consent and action. However, it did encourage users to set up profiles for other individuals. According to its Terms of Service, Google Health is not considered a "covered entity" under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996; thus, HIPAA privacy laws do not apply to it.
In a 2008 article covering the original Google Health's launch, the New York Times discussed privacy issues and said that "patients apparently did not shun the Google health records because of qualms that their personal health information might not be secure if held by a large technology company." Others contend that Google Health may be more private than the current "paper" health record system because of reduced human interaction.
Google Health (2018–current)
DeepMind Health and NHS
In 2017, DeepMind Health (later a division of Google Health) was found to have not complied with UK data protection laws, according to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. The health unit of DeepMind had been formed in early 2016. DeepMind acquired a task management app called Hark developed by Dr. Dominic King and Dr. Lord Ara Darzi at Imperial College. Deepmind Health was also developing an app with the NHS Royal Free Hospital called Streams that helped monitor patients with acute kidney injury. The ICO said that patients were not notified correctly about how their data was being used. The DeepMind Health team noted the appointment of Dr. David Feinberg at Google in November 2018, and later officially joined Google Health in late 2019.
Google Health and University of Chicago
In June 2019, University of Chicago, its medical center, and Google were sued in a potential class-action lawsuit about patient record sharing. A federal judge dismissed the patient data privacy lawsuit on September 4, 2020. The class action suit had been filed by plaintiff Matt Dinerstein and represented by attorney Jay Edelson.
The University noted that class action attorney Edelson had a potential conflict of interest, as an investor in a competing company, Quant HC. According to a legal motion filed in 2019, Edelson and his law partners allegedly “funded, organized, and served as officers and directors of” Quant HC, a company founded by Edelson’s spouse, a physician at University of Chicago. Quant HC, produced medical software called ECART, and received $600,000 of initial investment from Edelson and his wife from its founding in 2012.
Google Health and Ascension Health
In 2018, Project Nightingale started the partnership with Ascension, one of the largest United States health care systems. Ascension health system and Google described the partnership including infrastructure modernization, transitioning to productivity and collaboration tools, and exploring artificial intelligence / machine learning applications and tools for doctors and nurses.
In November 2019, Google engineers were reported to have had access to medical records held by Ascension as they were building products and as a result, the US government opened up an investigation on the partnership. From December 2019 to March 2020, a group of U.S. Senators asked for more information about the project, and how sensitive health information was protected.
Legal observers, however, had noted that there had probably not actually been any HIPAA federal privacy law violations, citing a business associate agreement between Google and Ascension in line with what HIPAA allowed. Other health data experts commented that companies such as IQVIA, UnitedHealth Optum Labs, and Symphony Health, IBM Watson Health (Truven Health) “reap the profits of selling the healthcare data while the people from whom it's collected have no control over how it's used. Nor do they get any compensation for it.” For example, IQVIA, a large pharmaceutical research and marketing conglomerate noted that they have data on over 600 million patients in their public 10-K financial filings.
Other media coverage noted that while Google had done nothing illegal, questions remained on what other uses Google intended. Google executive Tariq Shaukat wrote in an official statement that the data would be used in extending tools to doctors and nurses to improve care, writing: “We aim to provide tools that Ascension could use to support improvements in clinical quality and patient safety.” The official post was later amended to clarify that Ascension patient data would not be combined with Google consumer data, stating “In accordance with HIPAA and the BAA we sign with our customers, patient data cannot be used for any other purpose than for provisioning the tools specific to the customer.“
Comparison to Facebook Hospital Data Projects
The stated commitment by Google to not combine data stood in contrast to the health records activities by Facebook.
While Google noted they would not combine health data with consumer data, Facebook had reportedly sought to combine hashed electronic health record data with consumer data. The secretive Facebook “Building 8” project, led by cardiologist Dr. Freddy Abnousi, sought to “combine what a health system knows about its patients (such as: person has heart disease, is age 50, takes 2 medications and made 3 trips to the hospital this year) with what Facebook knows (such as: user is age 50, married with 3 kids, English isn't a primary language, actively engages with the community by sending a lot of messages).”
FitBit Acquisition and the European Commission
In August 2020, as Google began acquisition of FitBit, the European Commission began investigating Google's potential uses of data collected from Fitbit's health tracking hardware. The Commission expressed concerns about competition, the effects of combining data from FitBit and Google in the digital healthcare sector, and potential effects of interoperability of rivals' wearables with Google's Android operating system for smartphones.
Google's parent company Alphabet, Inc. has also been active in the healthcare industry with the companies Verily, Calico, and DeepMind. In July 2020, sister company Verily was described as acting "largely independent of one another", while Verily chief executive officer Andrew Conrad reportedly wanted to end the "rivalry" between the two companies and collaborate more closely.
On December 7, 2011, MediConnect Global announced a similar capability that allows displaced Google Health users to transfer their personal health records to a MyMediConnect account.
Google Health was a personal health record (PHR) service with numerous competitors, including other proprietary PHR systems and open-source such as Microsoft's HealthVault, Dossia, and the open-source Indivo project.
In the United States hospital market for electronic health records (EHR) in 2018, Epic, Cerner, MEDITECH, and CSPI (Evident Thrive) had the top market share at 28%, 26%, 9%, and 6%. For large hospitals with over 500 beds, Epic and Cerner had over 85% market share in 2019.
On July 18, 2011, Microsoft released a tool that lets Google Health customers transfer their personal health information to a web-based Microsoft HealthVault account. HealthVault had partnered with American Heart Association, Johnson & Johnson, and Allscripts. In November 2019, Microsoft HealthVault was shut down and it was suggested users migrate their records to Get Real Health and FollowMyHealth.
In 2019, Dr. Roni Zeiger announced he would be joining Facebook as the Head of Health Strategy. The same year in 2019, Facebook announced its project called Preventive Health, a digital tool to connect patients with healthcare providers and sends reminders for health concerns based on age and gender.
In 2017, Facebook had been working on a "top-secret" project headed by Dr. Freddy Abnousi to take anonymous medical data and using a common computer science cryptographic technique called “hashing” in order to match individuals. Alleged this information would only be used for the medical research community. Additionally there had been the idea of building virtual profiles of patients that included their medical conditions, as well as their social and economic factors.
Since 2018, Amazon is in a joint venture, Haven, with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway, to created a new type of health insurance. In 2019, Amazon launched a beta program as an extension of a traditional health insurance plan called, Amazon Care, offering both virtual and in-person healthcare. They have tele-medicine via an app, chat and remote video, as well as follow-up visits and prescription drug delivery via home or office.
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