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Ascension to Expand Google EHR Search Tool Integration Across Sites

Following patient privacy allegations, Ascension and Google are growing their partnership to integrate the Google EHR search tool across additional healthcare facilities.

Ascension, a Missouri-based health system, has announced it is expanding the integration of a Google EHR search tool that aims to display relevant patient data in a way that helps clinicians utilize the EHR.

In a blog post, Paul Muret, VP of Product & Design at Google, stated the tech company has “fine tuned” its EHR search tool, Care Studio. Google will soon deploy the pilot at Ascension healthcare facilities in Nashville, TN and Jacksonville, FL.

Utilizing Ascension clinician feedback, Google aims to organize patient data into intuitive and useful formats for its users, primarily to alleviate clinician burnout and ease EHR usability.  

Extensive EHR use directly caused one-third of clinicians to experience high cynicism and over half to report high exhaustion levels, according to a 2020 Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) study.

Thus, a more customized EHR interface and search tool should help lower EHR use.

“As we begin to share this new tool with caregivers in clinical settings, it is important to note that this tool is an optional support tool and does not replace existing EHR systems,” Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president of Strategy and Innovations at Ascension, said in a statement. “Rather, it complements existing EHR systems and provides a single interface to search varied, and previously siloed, data systems and streams.”

Care Studio is an integrated EHR tool that displays patient records and streamlines the search process, Google said. It aims to unite patient data from multiple organizational EHR systems, which gives the clinician data access on a single workflow.

Google said it leveraged its search capabilities by utilizing common medical terminology and clinical shorthand. A user can use the search bar to find real-time patient data.

Although relevant health data can sometimes be difficult to find, Google said it uses its technology to display pertinent data in fewer clicks. For example, the tool can organize patient medication history by dosage information or prescription dates. It also includes lab results, prescription orders, procedure orders, and progress notes.

Additionally, Care Studio automatically converts measurements, such as blood pressure or weight, based on the user’s preferred unit to maintain patient safety, according to developers

Both Google and Ascension addressed last year’s patient privacy concerns that surrounded the partnership. News reports said the two organizations used patient data to develop parts of the Google Health suite.

“Additionally, as promised when we began this work, Ascension’s use of Care Studio tool complies with all applicable regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the work with Google is covered by a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) that governs Protected Health Information (PHI),” Conrado said.

“With this new tool and Ascension’s privacy and security protections in place to protect patients’ health information, Ascension clinicians will have the search capability that brings information from a patient’s entire medical record to their fingertips.”

Google said it implemented administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to maintain patient privacy. Furthermore, the company said it encrypted and isolated patient data in a controlled environment away from customer and consumer data.

“We know healthcare data is sensitive and personal, and it’s our responsibility to keep it private and secure,” Google’s Muret added. “Google does not own, nor do we ever sell, patient data. This data from Care Studio cannot be used for advertising. Our team designed Care Studio to adhere to industry best practices and regulations, including HIPAA.”

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