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Hospitals Give Tech Giants Access To Detailed Medical Records


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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals have granted Microsoft, IBM and Amazon the ability to access identifiable patient information under deals to crunch millions of health records, the latest examples of hospitals' growing influence in the data economy. This breadth of access wasn't always spelled out by hospitals and tech giants when the deals were struck. The scope of data sharing in these and other recently reported agreements reveals a powerful new role that hospitals play -- as brokers to technology companies racing into the $3 trillion health-care sector. Rapid digitization of health records in recent years and privacy laws enabling companies to swap patient data have positioned hospitals as a primary arbiter of how such sensitive data is shared. Microsoft and Providence, a Renton, Wash., hospital system with data for about 20 million patient visits a year, are developing cancer algorithms by using doctor's notes in patient medical records. The notes haven't been stripped of personally identifiable information, according to Providence. And an agreement between IBM and Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, to jointly develop artificial intelligence allows the hospital to share personally identifiable data for specific requests, people involved in the agreement said -- though so far the hospital hasn't done so and has no current plans to do so, according to hospital and IBM officials. Microsoft executive Peter Lee in July described how his company would use Providence patient data without identifying information for algorithm development. In a December statement, he said patients' personal health data remains in Providence's control and declined to comment further. As for Amazon, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, granted certain AWS employees access to health information that identifies individual patients. "The Hutch, a research institution with ties to hospitals, trained and tested Amazon Web Services software designed to read medical notes," the report says. "An AWS spokeswoman said it doesn't use personally identifiable data protected under federal privacy laws to develop or improve its services."

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