A former patient of the University of Chicago Medical Center (UChicago Medicine) has filed a potential class action lawsuit against the facility, claiming that his medical records were shared with Google violating HIPAA. The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Since 2017, Google and UChicago Medicine have been working together using artifical intelligence to improve predictive analysis, reduce patient complications, and decrease unplanned readmissions. Machine learning via review of old medical records is essential to the process. The lawsuit alleges that thousands of patients’ medical records were shared with Google without their authorization. In addition, date stamps and physician signatures were not removed.
If patient data was not given proper anonymity
prior to the exchange with Google, then patient privacy has been violated. Combined with Google’s ability to identify what patients had appointments where and on what dates, exposure of this data would constitute a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation and serious fines.
Both UChicago Medicine and Google deny the accusations and maintain that they were in regulatory compliance. “We believe our healthcare research could help save lives in the future, which is why we take privacy seriously and follow all relevant rules and regulations in our handling of health data,” says Google. “In particular, we take compliance with HIPAA seriously, including in the receipt and use of the limited data set provided by the University of Chicago.” A UChicago Medicine Spokesperson said, “That research partnership was appropriate and legal and the claims asserted in this case are baseless and a disservice to the Medical Center’s fundamental mission of improving the lives of its patients…”