Google Health unveils EHR data aggregation tool for clinicians

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Google Health is working on a new EHR-like tool capable of pulling data from various clinical systems into a unified interface.

The as-yet-unnamed product provides a single login through which doctors can access a unified view of data that would normally spread across different systems.

This includes vitals, labs, medications and notes, as well as scanned documents and faxes.

Rather than a fully-fledged EPR system – which Google representatives have previously suggested the company is not interested in – the demo hints towards an interoperable aggregation platform that sits on top of the clinical desktop.

Doctors can search for keywords and use clinical shorthand to find results. For example, searching “abx” would return mentions of antibiotics in the results, including any medications administered.

The system also uses “a variety of Google technologies” – such as those lifted from its autocomplete and autocorrect functionalities – so that misspelled terms that are not identical matches to the searched-for term show up in results.

Clicking on any value will begin a deeper exploration showing recent and historical trends in graphs and tables, explained Alvin Rajkomar, Google product manager and practicing clinician, in a video demo.

Key admission notes can also be accessed, with the tool using the ‘Smart Compose’ feature from Gmail to autocomplete common clinical phrases. This means that, as clinicians type in different sections of the note, relevant information will be displayed and terms that are difficult to spell are automatically suggested.

The product is currently in development and early clinical pilots.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3SYqcPXqNk?wmode=transparent&fs=1&w=1165&h=655]

It comes on the back of revelations that Google is working with US healthcare system Ascension on a project dubbed ‘Nightingale’, which sees authorised Google employees given access to limited patient data.

The project has attracted criticism from privacy advocates and members of the public, as well as a number of Google employees working on the project.

In a blog post responding to the concerns, David Feinberg, head of Google Health, said its work around patient health records “adheres to strict regulations on handling patient data”.

“Our Business Associate Agreement with Ascension ensures their patient data cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing our services – this means it’s never used for advertising,” Feinberg added.

Feinberg also claimed Google’s system was developed and tested on made-up data and openly-available datasets, while Google staff who handle data additionally undergo HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and medical ethics training.

Google’s protocols are also subject to external certification processes, whereby third-party auditors assess the company’s security compliance standards.

“Health information is incredibly complex – there are misspellings, different ways of saying the same thing, handwritten scribbles, and faxes. Healthcare IT systems also don’t talk well to each other and this keeps doctors and nurses from taking the best possible care of you,” Feinberg said in the post.

“Policymakers and regulators across the world (e.g., CMS, HHS, the NHS, and EC) have called this out as an important issue. We’ve committed to help, and it’s why we built this system on interoperable standards.

“To deliver such a tool to providers, the system must operate on patients’ records. 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.”

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