Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center joins Ascension to pilot Google's EHR search tool

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In February, Google announced that it was expanding its clinical search tool program and gave it a name, Care Studio. The software solution provides a comprehensive view of a patient’s records and allows clinicians to quickly search through complex patient information. (achinthamb/Shutterstock)

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the second major health system to sign on with Google to pilot its controversial clinical search tool.

The technology is designed to offer clinicians a longitudinal view of patient records and the ability to quickly search through those records through a single secure tool, the health system said in a press release.

The tech giant and its first health system partner, Ascension, faced widespread criticism more than a year ago after news broke about a patient data-sharing arrangement between the two organizations. Google and Ascension both faced significant blowback, including scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers, following news that Google was collecting personal health information on millions of Americans as part of a partnership with the health system.

At the time, Google said its partnership with Ascension, which was inked in August 2018, includes modernizing the health system's data infrastructure, which involves migrating data to the Google Cloud, and providing G Suite productivity tools to employees.

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But controversy swirled around one key aspect of the partnership to pilot an EHR search tool that pulls patient electronic health records into an interface to help clinicians more easily find useful information.

In February, Google announced that it was expanding the program and gave it a name: Care Studio.

The software solution provides a comprehensive view of a patient’s records and allows clinicians to quickly search through complex patient information, Paul Muret, vice president of product and design at Google Health wrote in a blog post in February.

The tech company has been working with Ascension on a pilot of Care Studio focused on data quality and product safety with a small group of clinicians based in Nashville and Jacksonville, Florida. The pilot is now expanding to more physicians and nurses in the clinical setting, Muret said.

"Care Studio is built for clinicians and works alongside EHR systems; it streamlines workflows and supports more proactive care," he said.

At BIDMC, a group of 50 physicians and nurses, working in inpatient settings, will assess the tool as part of the pilot to ensure the quality, efficacy, and safety of its use in conjunction with the health system's data and systems, according to the health system.

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The group of clinicians will assess the tool’s searchable view of patients’ medical records, which aims to provide clinicians more streamlined access to information that can be used to make important care decisions for the patient more quickly.

A goal of the project is to free up more time for clinicians to care for patients and reduce the need for patients to repeat information from visit to visit, the health system said.

Next month, technical work will begin in preparation for the implementation of the pilot and will include data analysis and validation over the next several months.

“As a leading tertiary care and academic medical center, we are committed to advancing health technology and to exploring solutions to healthcare’s digital challenges in support of providing excellent patient care,” said Lawrence Markson, M.D. chief medical information officer and vice president for clinical information systems at BIDMC. “Participating in this early access pilot allows us the opportunity to explore a technology tool that has the potential to streamline our clinicians’ workflow, allowing them to spend more time focused on our highest priority: our patients.”

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BIDMC utilizes a number of different systems, including the medical center’s core medical record system, the self-developed, web-based electronic health record known as WebOMR, as well as several clinical systems designed for specific clinical specialties. Records are stored in different formats, such as digital clinical notes, scanned documents and handwritten notes, and currently there is no central system to search across data from these multiple systems. 

As part of the pilot program, clinicians will be able to type a word, abbreviation, or phrase into the Care Studio search bar, and the tool will provide relevant information within their patient’s medical record from multiple sources. By providing an integrated view of patient records and applying intelligent search capabilities to the hospital’s EHR and other BIDMC clinical systems, Care Studio is designed to save clinicians’ time by presenting a unified view of a patient’s vitals, labs, medications, and notes, according to BIDMC executives.

Health system executive said Google's Care Studio software is designed to adhere to state and federal patient privacy regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Ac and industry-wide standards related to protected health information.

The two organizations have entered into a business associate agreement to ensure that both parties meet patient privacy obligations required under HIPAA. BIDMC patient data will be stored and maintained in a protected environment, isolated from other Google customers, the health system said.