Google outlined how it has tested and developed its EHR search tool, confirming key elements of the business associate agreement with Ascension.
Google is testing its new EHR search function, a tool that will allow medical providers to search within the medical record for specific information, the health tech giant revealed in a new demonstration video.
“With a single login, doctors can access a unified view of data normally spread across multiple systems. All the types of information clinicians need are assembled together such as the vitals, labs, medications and notes,” Alvin Rajkomar, MD, Google product manager and practicing physician, explained in the video.
The search technology will allow providers to parse through their EHRs to find individual pieces of medical information, making these tools more usable and, ideally, satisfactory for patients. Ultimately, this endeavor aims to address a key issue plaguing the medical industry.
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“Doctors and nurses love caring for patients, but aren’t always equipped with the tools they need to thrive in their mission,” David Feinberg, MD, the head of Google Health, said in an accompanying blog post.
Data backs this up. Earlier this year, researchers from the University of New Mexico found that physician burnout is high, and it’s almost certainly because of unusable EHRs. Specifically, researchers found that nearly 40 percent of clinician burnout can be credited to unworkable EHRs, a far cry from the 13 percent of burnout experts previously attributed to EHR use.
Google said its latest search tool, which is still in the pilot testing phase, is its own efforts to address health IT and EHR use challenges. Using its expertise in search tools used in other consumer markets, the tech giant hopes to streamline clinician EHR use, ultimately easing the burnout epidemic that ravages the industry.
“Google has spent two decades on similar problems for consumers, building products such as Search, Translate and Gmail, and we believe we can adapt our technology to help,” Feinberg wrote in the blog post. “That’s why we’re building an intelligent suite of tools to help doctors, nurses, and other providers take better care of patients, leveraging our expertise in organizing information.”
Google also took the opportunity to address the patient privacy questions that have surrounded it in recent weeks, shedding some light on its recent activity. Specifically, news reports about a partnership between Google and Missouri-based health system Ascension have called into question patient privacy as the two organizations used patient data to develop parts of the Google Health suite.
“To deliver such a tool to providers, the system must operate on patients’ records,” Feinberg clarified. “This is what people have been asking about in the context of our Ascension partnership, and why we want to clarify how we handle that data.”
Feinberg specifically outlined the business associate agreement (BAA) established between Google and Ascension, and the privacy concerns associated with such a deal. As is fundamental to all BAAs under HIPAA regulations, patient data cannot be used for any purpose other than those outlined in the agreement. This means Google cannot, and Feinberg said has not, used patient data for any type of advertisement.
Google has also established a set of guidelines for any of its employees that may need to come into contact with identifiable patient data as a part of developing the Google Health suite:
- Employees must use fake data when possible
- Employees must undergo HIPAA training
- Google aims to limit the number of employees working with patient data
- Google has developed an additional set of controls to protect patient data
- The company will develop new tools to reduce the number of employees who have to work with patient data
- Google taps independent third parties to audit the use of patient data
Ultimately, Google hopes its innovations can make a dent in a medical industry that is increasingly digital.
“I graduated from medical school in 1989,” Feinberg concluded. “I’ve seen tremendous progress in healthcare over the ensuing decades, but this progress has also brought with it challenges of information overload that have taken doctors’ and nurses’ attentions away from the patients they are called to serve. I believe technology has a major role to play in reversing this trend, while also improving how care is delivered in ways that can save lives.”
Source: EHR Intelligence