University of Chicago and Google Under Scrutiny for Patient Data-Sharing Contract

A contract between Google and the University of Chicago is under scrutiny in a lawsuit filed by Edelson PC, a privacy-focused law firm.

Signed in December 2016, the agreement outlined a research collaboration in which the university would share reams of de-identified patient data with the tech giant. The lawsuit alleges, though, that the dataset still contained patients’ identifiable data, including information about:

  • race, ethnicity, gender, and age
  • admission, discharge, and transfer data, including “patient room location”
  • procedures, including surgical procedures
  • diagnose, lab results, radiology exams
  • medications, including inpatient and outpatient
  • billing and charges

The University of Chicago shared this data with Google to develop artificial intelligence models to predict whether patients had died in the hospital, been readmitted unexpectedly, had an extended hospital stay, or received certain diagnoses upon discharge. As part of the same project, the University of California, San Francisco also shared about 1.4 million patient records with Google, but because the data did not include doctor’s notes or date stamps, that deal has was not mentioned in the lawsuit.

While neither Google or the University of Chicago would state the exact number of patients included in the dataset, the parameters in the contract suggest that the number is in the hundreds of thousands, STAT reported, and patients who were university employees were not included.

Lawyers for both organizations have been trying to get the suit dismissed and are awaiting the court’s decision.