Google continues to innovate healthcare with companies like Calico, DeepMind and Verily (all sitting under the Alphabet brand), while at the same time developing products and services to address current challenges in the healthcare space. The Google Cloud Platform has a mission to help companies organize their healthcare data and make this crucial information useful and secure. Sharing data in health could revolutionize care delivery and impact learning—but is not without its concerns. Google hopes to first make data both secure and accessible, and then derive meaningful insights through artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In her role as the Global Head for Healthcare Solutions, Aashima Gupta works with key healthcare leaders to transform their business strategies. She believes that patient care and experience are poised for marked improvement when technology is applied with strategic precision. InterbrandHealth’s Nicole Diamant had a chance to chat with Gupta at the Health 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, CA, where she spoke on a panel about cloud-based networks, data control and what comes next.
What does the Google brand bring to the business of healthcare? How does it impact customer perceptions?
There are many cloud options out there but customers work with us because they are looking for reliability and scale, world-class technology, and a trusted partner to help them get there. These are not overnight decisions; customers do a lot of due diligence and are looking for a long-term partner.
What are the concerns about data sharing and APIs?
While there is not much debate that data sharing and APIs enable a massive opportunity for patient empowerment and care transformation, there are very legitimate fears from stakeholders. It’s a topic that is easily lost in regulations, technology and complexity, or simply displaced by the inertia of past practices and processes. However, we need to focus back on patient-centricity and why it matters.
Data sharing of highly sensitive personal health information should be subjected to strict regulatory scrutiny—HIPAA and HITECH in the US, PIPEDA and its provincial variants in Canada, and GDPR in the EU. Diligent attention to configuration and access controls is necessary to prevent unauthorized access to this highly personal data. And today the technology underpinning exists. For example, to address these concerns, the Cloud Healthcare API supports HIPAA compliance, and Google Cloud is HITRUST certified.
With managed Healthcare APIs, every individual and app with access to the API must first register for a security key, then present that key with every data request sent via the API. Keys can only be distributed by the authorized API owners, and every action performed on the API is audited, logged, monitored and recorded. Any attempted deviations from the rules outlined in the API contract are flagged. Far more secure than sending a fax.
The technology exists and now it’s about breaking down barriers to interoperability. It is critical that the effort succeed for the sake of the general public as these will not only enable physicians to take better care of their patients, but also empower consumers to actively participate in their own health.
What are you most excited to solve for in healthcare, and what do you believe has contributed to the inertia around that particular issue?
The success Google Cloud has already seen in healthcare is extremely encouraging, but this is only the beginning.
I have seen a fundamental shift in how we view the healthcare system in the last decade from one based on sickness and disease to one focused on prevention and wellness. Consider the movement toward “value-based care,” in which doctors and other practitioners increasingly focus on preventative behavior rather than after-the-fact diagnoses. Machine learning and other emerging fields have quickly shifted this from aspirational ideas to concrete projects being deployed in the field. Examples range from algorithms that can detect diabetic retinopathy to predictive analytics that prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to healthcare fraud. It’s a landscape literally moving beneath our feet, and it impacts each of us.
Data and interoperability sit at the epicenter of these shifts. But major challenges remain, from inadequate EHR interoperability to regulatory and security concerns, to debates about how to best distinguish signal from noise in vast collections of medical data. The right data has to be available, in the right place at the right time, before intelligence and efficiency can be applied. It is the foundation for everything . How can we take this potential and connectivity and use it to solve these healthcare problems?
These are questions Google Cloud Healthcare is interested in helping to answer. Google’s expertise in privacy, security cloud infrastructure and machine learning can be applied to solving problems with healthcare data. To that end, in August at the Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference at the White House, Google Cloud, along with Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce, announced our joint commitment to removing barriers for the adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI. The common goal is to deliver better patient care, higher user satisfaction and lower costs across the entire health ecosystem. We have the much needed momentum.
How are you balancing consideration of your customers versus the end patients?
It is simple: Patient needs are at the forefront of everything Google Cloud builds for healthcare.
What do you see as the big challenge ahead?
The healthcare industry is not very different from other enterprise businesses in that they have a lot of data to bring into the cloud securely. Lack of interoperability standards or poorly enforced standards will continue to be a big challenge as it prevents a seamless, reliable exchange of health data. While efforts to create a national patient identifier have stagnated somewhat over recent years, recent policy developments and initiatives fostering health IT innovation show promise for new progress.
Nicole Diamant is head of communications for InterbrandHealth.