Google’s DeepMind Has Access to Data of 1.6 Million Patients in the UK

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Google-owned DeepMind has just been given access to healthcare related data of 1.6 million patients in the UK. The data was taken from a major London NHS trust which runs three hospitals.

The healthcare information is being given to DeepMind, an innovative artificial intelligence London-based company. The information handover to the company is part of an agreement that was done by the company with the Royal Free NHS Trust. The Trust runs three hospitals, the Barnet, Chase Farm and Royal Free hospitals.

The information that DeepMind got hold of also includes information about HIV-positive patients. Other cases in the data include drug overdoses, abortions which date back to five years from now. DeepMind recently announced a partnership with the three NHS hospitals which would help notify medical personnel about any patients that might be at risk of deterioration and maybe in severe cases death due to kidney failure.

Lord Darzi, former health minister and surgeon and also sitting director at the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London said he fully supports the program.

The agreement on sharing patient data might have ruffled a few feathers, though. Most people are concerned about Google’s actions in the healthcare industry which many believe to be suspicious. One spokesperson of the Royal Free Trust said patients would normally not be aware of the information transaction, and in any case, the data was encrypted. The spokesperson also mentioned that this was standard practice in the industry.

The statement about the agreement read, ““Our arrangement with DeepMind is the standard NHS information-sharing agreement set out by NHS England’s corporate information governance department and is the same as the other 1,500 agreements with third-party organizations that process NHS patient data.”

The statement also went on to state that in any case that if patients did not want and did not approve of the sharing agreement, they could opt out the data-sharing system if they connected with trust’s data protection officer.

Health data privacy group, MedConfidential’s Sam Smith said the agreement was beyond the kidney’s functionalities as DeepMind said, but they were getting the full data.

He says that DeepMind was trying to create an algorithm that would enable them to do the test on anything. He also asked why the company all the data especially since there is a lot of it covered in the data set.

DeepMind’s own scientist, Dominic King that doctors and nurses relied on access to timely and mostly relevant clinical data at all times. Considering that kidney injury are a cause of 40,000 deaths in the UK, many of which are preventable, use of the system is needed he says. He also mentioned that the kidney specialists who were part of the work were confident that the new program would help in changing the outcome of their patients.

“For us to generate these alerts it is necessary for us to look at a range of tests taken at different time intervals,” he says.