NHS staff unhappy at idea of big tech firms handling patient data

YouGov poll shows little trust that large multinational companies will treat information with adequate confidentiality

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Less than one in eight NHS staff would be comfortable with a large multinational technology company analysing patient data, a study from YouGov has found.

The research company quizzed more than 1,000 healthcare workers and found that just 12% would be happy for a multinational ‘big tech’ outfit to work with anonymised patient data. Few more – 17% – indicated that they would trust such a company to handle data with sufficient confidentiality.

These concerns are despite the fact that 81% of NHS staff are in favour of anonymous data being used to try and improve diagnostic and treatment outcomes. Some 71% believe doing so could help address the country’s biggest healthcare challenges, and 80% would like to see more UK-based artificial intelligence and analytics expertise to prevent data analysis being outsourced overseas.

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About three quarters of clinicians said they would encourage their patients to use technologies to try and better manage their condition. But only 36% said that their patients are currently doing so.

Rachel Power, chief executive of advocacy group The Patients Association, said: “From these survey results, NHS staff appear to have a good grasp of the benefits that can be achieved for patients by the effective use of patient data. We support the use of data in medical research and to improve the planning and delivery of care, provided it is done carefully and within the current legal framework.”

She added: “It is important that full information should be available to patients both about the benefits of sharing their data and the methods used to store it, share it and keep it secure. Patients and the public must feel confident that their data will be used appropriately and kept secure.”

The YouGov poll was commissioned by healthcare data firm Sensyne Health.


Sam Trendall

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