NHS grants Google access to 1.6 million patient records

Written by Rene Millman on 6 May 2016 in News
News

The NHS has granted search engine giant Google access to over 1.6 million patient records to enable the firm to develop a healthcare early warning app.

Google’s artificial intelligence subsidiary DeepMind has been given access to the anonymised information from Royal Free, Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust.

Around five years’ worth of data will be made available to DeepMind to build the app, according to reports by New Scientist. This includes data on people who are HIV-positive as well as information on abortions and drug taking.

An agreement between DeepMind and the NHS shows that the firm will gain access to all admissions, discharge and transfer data, accident & emergency, pathology and radiology, and critical care at these hospitals. The data-sharing agreement with DeepMind is set to run until September 29, 2017.


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Google said the data will be used to to develop an app that can recognised the signs of kidney injury. The Streams app looks to simplify alerts and access to patient data for doctors and nurses.

Phil Booth, coordinator of patient data protection group medConfidential, said he was concerned over the data collection.

"There are existing and strong processes for doing safe medical research using data; but this project seems to have followed none of them,” he said.

"To ensure patient confidence, properly run projects require transparency on what is being done, and why. That is to protect patients from the confusion about what this data will be used for.

The Royal Free London said in a statement: "With all information sharing agreements with non-NHS organisations, patients can opt out of any data-sharing system that the Royal Free London uses by contacting the trust’s data protection officer."

In a statement, Mustafa Suleyman, Co-Founder at DeepMind, said: "We are working with clinicians at the Royal Free to understand how technology can best help clinicians recognise patient deterioration - in this case acute kidney injury (AKI). We have, and will always, hold ourselves to the highest possible standards of patient data protection.

“This data will only ever be used for the purposes of improving healthcare and will never be linked with Google accounts or products."  

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