Project Nightingale: Take-Away Lesson for Providers and Payors

By Joel K. Goloskie December 30, 2019Health Care Law

There has been much ado lately about a newly-revealed joint venture between Ascension Medical Group and Google. Ascension is the nation’s largest non-profit health care system; Ascension Medical Group is the company’s subsidiary physician group, with facilities in more than twenty states. Google is, well, Google. The joint venture being undertaken by these industry behemoths is known as “Project Nightingale.” Ascension and Google describe Nightingale as a treatment-focused initiative, designed to facilitate access and use of data in the medical records of Ascension’s patients. It also involves migrating Ascension’s data from proprietary storage to Google’s cloud-based storage. The software tool developed from this initiative allegedly makes it easier for a doctor to access and use specific patient data such as recent test results, medications, and more.

The initiative appears to be squarely of the type that HIPAA (the package of laws that protect a patient’s privacy) would permit to be undertaken by a provider’s “business associate.” The two companies assert that they have signed a business associate agreement (“BAA”), and also assert that the terms of the agreement prohibit Google from using Ascension’s PHI (Protected Health Information) for any other purpose than for provisioning this tool for use by Ascension clinicians. Further, the BAA allegedly prohibits Google from combining Ascension’s patient data with Google consumer data.

Nightingale is now under scrutiny from the HHS Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”), the office charged with enforcing HIPAA. The agency’s examination comes as no surprise given the controversies around Big Tech companies’ mass collection of data, privacy rights and who exactly has access to personal information and why. To help health care providers and consumers understand the issue, PLDO health care attorney Joel K. Goloskie explores the Nightingale controversy in his latest advisory, Project Nightingale and the Take-Away Lesson for Providers and Payors. The thought-provoking article provides readers with information as to why Nightingale has received such a storm of whistleblower complaints, public backlash and now, an OCR investigation. If you have questions on Project Nightingale or need assistance for your organization, please contact Attorney Goloskie at 401-824-6100 or email jgoloskie@pldolaw.com.

 

 

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Joel K. Goloskie is Senior Counsel with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara LLC and a member of the Health Care, Litigation, Cyber Law and Corporate & Business Teams. His experience ranges from compliance and HIPAA privacy matters to regulatory filings and approvals, contract drafting and management, and mergers and acquisitions. He has assisted health care clients as they dealt with compliance orders and deferred prosecution agreements, and has represented clients in both civil and criminal matters in federal court. Mr. Goloskie recently served as Deputy General Counsel/Director of Compliance, Privacy & Ethics of a multi-hospital health care system. While there, he reviewed and drafted all contracts system-wide, and worked on complex transactions ranging from physician practice acquisitions and multi-party joint ventures to the sale of the entire nonprofit system to a for-profit chain. Previously, Mr. Goloskie founded a highly successful health care consulting firm, providing reimbursement, compliance and strategic advisory services to over sixty hospitals in fifteen states. Over a ten year period, he guided his clients through start-ups, expansions, acquisitions, and compliance program development. In addition, his reimbursement efforts directly resulted in the recovery of tens of millions of dollars from federal and state health care programs. Mr. Goloskie also served as founding executive director of a nonprofit corporation consisting of four hospitals and several community health centers. His unique knowledge and experience proves highly valuable to clients seeking solutions to complex legal and business matters. Prior to embarking on a career in health care, Mr. Goloskie was a captain in the U.S. Air Force, serving as an Instructor/Evaluator Special Operations Navigator on C-130 and C-141 aircraft. Mr. Goloskie received a J.D. from Boston College Law School, an M.B.A. from Webster University, and a B.S. from Thomas College. During law school, he interned for a U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge in Boston. He is active in the American Health Lawyers Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Health Care Compliance Association, the Rhode Island Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association, where he serves on the Steering Committee of the 800-member Health Law Section, and co-chairs the Health Law Education Committee. He is admitted to the state and federal courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To contact Attorney Goloskie, please call 401-824-5100 or email jgoloskie@pldolaw.com.

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