Google Given Access to Healthcare Data of up to 1.6 million Patients

A company that is owned by Google now has access to the healthcare data of close to 1.6 million patients from 3 hospitals that is run by London NHS trust.

Google’s London-based company (DeepMind), which is famous for the innovative use of artificial intelligence, is now provided with the patient information, which is a part of an agreement with the Royal Free NHS trust that runs the Barnet, Chase Farm & Royal Free hospitals. This includes information about people who are affected as well as the details of drug overdose or abortions and also other patient data from the past 5 years, according to the report by Scientist. DeepMind made an announcement in February that it was in the process of building software partnering with NHS hospitals to alert staff to patients that are at risk of deterioration and death through kidney failure.

The technology that is run through a smartphone app has full support of Lord Darzi, the former health minister who is also the Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London. But the agreement on patient record sharing has caused a concern among those people that are already concerned about Google’s involvement in the healthcare sector.

A spokesperson for the Royal Free stated that the patients will not be aware that data is being made available; however, it is highly secure and such practices were common. The spokesperson stated that their arrangement with DeepMind is the normal NHS information sharing agreement that is set out by NHS England’s corporate information governance department and is pretty same as the other 1.5k agreements with third party organizations, which process NHS patient data. They went on to add that in cases of the information sharing agreements with non-NHS organizations, patients can move out of any data sharing system by connecting with the trust’s data protection officer. The spokesperson also gave an insight into the situation stating that DeepMind is building a generic algorithm, which can do this for anything one can do a test for.

Dominic King, a senior scientist at Google DeepMind, told BBC that access to timely and relevant clinical data was essential for doctors and nurses. He went on to add that their work looks into the acute kidney injuries, which contribute to 40K deaths every year in the UK and most of that can be prevented.

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