- Hospital operator HCA Healthcare is linking up with Google Cloud on a new data analytics platform to support provider decision-making, the companies announced Wednesday.
- The deal between the 186-hospital system and the technology behemoth will build on HCA's existing use of technology to streamline both clinical and non-clinical operations, and represents "significant investments" in the system's mobile functions, the companies said. The goal is to give doctors and nurses workflow tools, analysis and alerts on their mobile devices for real-time updates on patients' conditions, while also improving workflows such as supply chain, human resources and physical plant operations.
- HCA previously published studies on how algorithm-based decision support tools improve care quality, and has supplied its providers with 90,000 mobile devices. The financial terms of the multi-year Google partnership were not disclosed, but it comes amid a rash of such data-sharing agreements between cloud computing giants and providers.
HCA, which operates in 20 U.S. states and the United Kingdom, boasts patient data from 32 million annual encounters, which it uses for research, developing algorithms for clinical decision support and removing inefficiencies in day-to-day operations.
Linking with Google will enhance these efforts, HCA said.
As part of the deal, Nashville-based HCA gets access to Google Cloud's healthcare offerings, including its Healthcare API, which makes it easier for different systems to share data, and BigQuery, Google's database with support for interoperability standards and HIPAA privacy compliance, the companies said.
Automation has been growing in importance for systems looking to cut down on expenses and better quality of care, especially as the federal government takes significant regulatory steps to improve data-sharing in healthcare. The number of health systems using automation technologies has tripled over the past year alone, according to the Guidehouse Center for Health Insights.
Many big-name provider networks have turned to partnerships with cloud computing giants to help automate their functions and drive new clinical insights. Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have all inked lucrative deals with systems in recent years to transfer and manage their data on the cloud.
In 2019, Providence, Humana and Walgreens reached data-storage agreements with Microsoft; EHR vendor Cerner named Amazon Web Services its preferred cloud host; and academic medical center Mayo Clinic inked a 10-year deal with Google. This year, Google opened a new office by Mayo's main campus, increasing its investment in the partnership.
Increased intermingling between health systems and massive tech companies has given rise to significant worries about profiteering off of patients' sensitive medical data without their knowledge or consent. Google is currently facing an HHS Office of Civil Rights probe after using the personal health information of millions of Americans provided by Ascension, the second-largest system in the U.S., to develop new healthcare product lines without patient consent.
However, the practice is technically legal under current law, and Google has stressed the patient data it accesses under the terms of such partnerships is de-identified and secure.
Another concern is that broader sharing of existing data sets, which may not include equitable data from all populations and demographics, and use of them to create new algorithms and products, could exacerbate existing disparities in care.
Forrester analyst Arielle Trzcinski said HCA and Google should make sure consumers are in the loop with what's being done with their information, while ensuring any new algorithms are accurate and without bias — especially if they're being used to inform clinical care.
"Most medical data used as training sets for AI today are from individuals that have access to healthcare and can afford it," Trzcinski said. "Without a larger, more diverse data set we run the risk of perpetuating the bias that exists today in decision-making."