Wednesday 23 November 2016

Google Wins Data Deals With NHS

Google Wins Data Deals With NHS

Google has been agreed a five-year deal with one of the largest NHS trusts to handle the medical records of up to 1.6million people.

The tech giant's secretive DeepMind health business will use the data to help develop a mobile app they claim could save 10,000 lives a year.

In 2017 it will launch a warning system for acute kidney problems and blood poisoning at three London hospitals, although its 'Streams' app will also include test results, medical history and an instant messaging service.

But it is hugely controversial because the Royal Free London NHS Trust has agreed that DeepMind needs to be given all patient data to make it work.

This is believed to include patients' names, ages, and complete medical histories, including whether they had been diagnosed with HIV, depression, suffered from drug or alcohol addiction, or had an abortion.

It emerged this year that neither the trust nor Google needed to ask patients' permission beforehand because the NHS is obliged to pass on some anonymous medical information if it is intended for research purposes to improve care. Patients can opt out online.

Experts are 'worried' the tech giant has been handed a 'free pass' to work in the NHS and its data.

The app, called 'Streams', has been developed by Google's secretive artificial intelligence arm DeepMind, whose co-founder Mustafa Suleyman says they only charging the NHS 'modest fee' for its services.

Cambridge academic Julia Powles, who has been studying the issue for the past six months and has written a paper called 'DeepMind Health and its dubious access to the highly sensitive patient records of millions of unwitting Londoners.'

She told the Financial Times: 'DeepMind/Google are getting a free pass for swift and broad access into the NHS, on the back of persuasive but unproven promises of efficiency and innovation.

'We do not know - and have no power to find out - what Google and DeepMind are really doing with NHS patient data, nor the extent of Royal Free's meaningful control over what DeepMind is doing.'

Privacy campaigners are also concerned.

Phil Booth, co-ordinator of campaign group medConfidential said: 'Our concern is that Google gets data on every patient who has attended the hospital in the last five years and they're getting a monthly report of data on every patient who was in the hospital, but may now have left, never to return.

'What your Doctor needs to be able to see is the up to date medical history of the patient currently in front of them.

'The Deepmind gap, because the patient history is up to a month old, makes the entire process unreliable and makes the fog of unhelpful data potentially even worse'.

The NHS trust and Google DeepMind have said that the work will bring new innovations and save lives, while protecting privacy.

Doctors will get 'warning' alerts on their smartphones if a patient has the symptoms of kidney failure or blood poisoning.

Medical staff will also have access to all of their patient's test results and medical history - and the app will also allow them to instant message colleagues with queries or instructions.

The trust, which includes three London hospitals, and Google say the data is encrypted, will be processed by only a computer programme, and there is no chance of it being leaked online.

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman said: 'Privacy and trust are paramount, and we're holding ourselves to an unprecedented level of oversight by publishing our agreements publicly and engaging nine respected public figures to scrutinise our work in the public interest.'

David Sloman, chief executive of the Royal Free London, says it is part of its drive to help make its services more efficient and easier for patients to access.

He said: 'We are hugely excited by the opportunity this partnership presents to patients and staff. We want to lead the way in healthcare technology and this new clinical app will enable us to provide safer and faster care to patients – which will save lives.

'Doctors and nurses currently spend far too much time on paperwork, and we believe this technology could substantially reduce this burden, enabling doctors and nurses to spend more time on what they do best - treating patients.'

*** Daily Mail



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