Google opens Cloud Healthcare API to health systems to support data exchange

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Google Cloud's release of a new application programming interface comes as federal policymakers are pushing the industry to open up healthcare data and share them with patients or the health apps patients choose. (achinthamb/Shutterstock)

Google Cloud announced Monday the general availability of a technology tool that will make it easier for health systems and providers to connect data across different sources and share those data with patients.

Google is making its Cloud Healthcare API (application programming interface) available to the industry at large. The tool facilitates the exchange of data between healthcare applications and solutions built on Google Cloud and enables a unified view of patient data, according to a blog post.

The API allows healthcare organizations to ingest and manage key data from a range of inputs and systems—and then better understand those data through the application of analytics and machine learning in real time, at scale, wrote Joe Corkery, M.D., director of product, and Aashima Gupta, director of industry solutions, both in Google Cloud's healthcare and life sciences division.

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The tool also enables providers to "easily interact with that data using Web-friendly, REST-based endpoints and health plans to rapidly get up and running with a cloud-based FHIR server providing the capabilities needed to implement, scale and support interoperability and patient access," Corkery and Gupta wrote.

The Cloud Healthcare API supports popular healthcare data standards such as HL7 FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), HL7 v2 and DICOM.

For healthcare and life sciences organizations, gathering a unified view of data from different applications and systems, including electronic health record and medical imaging systems, is often a "herculean effort" due to complicated and siloed systems within care environments, according to Google Cloud.

During the health crisis, there is an even greater need for healthcare providers to have access to real-time, unified healthcare data, Corkery and Gupta wrote.

"We’re in a time where technology needs to work fast, securely, and most importantly in a way that furthers our dedication to our patients,” said John Halamka, M.D., president of Mayo Clinic Platform, in a statement. “Google Cloud’s Healthcare API accelerates data liquidity among stakeholders, and in return, will help us better serve our patients."

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In September, Mayo Clinic struck a sweeping partnership with Google to use the tech giant's cloud platform to accelerate innovation through digital technologies. Mayo Clinic has been using the Cloud Healthcare API to enable the storage and interoperability of its clinical data.

Google Cloud's release of the API comes as federal policymakers are pushing the industry to open up healthcare data and share them with patients or the health apps patients choose.

New interoperability regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services will require major changes for payers and hospitals to provide patients access to their health information while also prohibiting the practice of information blocking.

"Today, healthcare organizations are in dire need of easy-to-use technology that supports health information exchange," Corkery and Gupta wrote.

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Google Cloud executives also said the company was providing other solutions to help healthcare organizations, researchers and patients navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The tools include telehealth visits through Google Meet, public healthcare data sets to help healthcare organizations study COVID-19 and the use of the Google Maps Platform in conjunction with COVID-19 data sets to help healthcare organizations locate critical equipment, provide testing site locations and route medical deliveries to recipients, the company said.

Google Cloud teamed up with HCA Healthcare to open a COVID-19 data portal that helps U.S. hospital systems better track important data on ventilator utilization, ICU bed capacity and COVID-19 testing results.