When a whistleblower revealed the details of Project Nightingale, a collaboration between Google and the Ascension health system, he or she also surfaced critical flaws in the ways that health care and tech work together.

As part of the deal, Ascension, a nonprofit Catholic hospital system that operates in 21 states, gave Google access to millions of patient records, including names and birth dates. The goal of Project Nightingale was to build new tools that help doctors extract key information from patients’ medical records and deliver more targeted medical treatments. It would also make it possible for doctors to spend more time with patients and less time combing through endless layers of electronic health data.

The problem was that the hospital system gave Google access to this mountain of data without the knowledge of doctors or patients. After the news broke, stories emerged questioning compliance with privacy laws and whether Google had plans to monetize the data it received. Lawmakers have voiced similar concerns.


This isn’t an isolated incident. There have been other hiccups over the years as tech and health care have increasingly gravitated towards one another. Think IBM Watson, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s alliance with Paige.AI, and the fall of Outcome Health. These gaffes are exacerbating an already frayed trust between the public and the tech industry.