DeepMind, Google’s artificial intelligence division, has now been given access to an estimated 1.6 million NHS patient records as part of its research.
Google has stated it will use the data in order to develop an early warning system application, called Stream, for patients who are at risk of developing acute kidney injuries. According to NHS reports, acute Kidney injuries contribute up to 20% of emergency hospital admissions. DeepMind intends to use this information to alert doctors when someone is at risk of developing the condition.
Many people are concerned that the data sharing agreement includes full names, along with patient medical history. ‘New Scientist’ stated “The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Far, and the Royal Free – each year.
This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.”
Critics have also questioned why Google needs the data of all patients to create the application. “The big question is why they want it. This a very rich data set. If you are someone who went to the A&E department, why is your data in this?” Asked Sam Smith, a co-ordinator of patient data campaign group MedConfidential.
Google says that since there is no separate dataset for people with kidney conditions, it needs access to all of the data in order to run Streams effectively. In a statement, the Royal Free NHS Trust says that it “provides DeepMind with NHS patient data in accordance with strict information governance rules and for the purpose of direct clinical care only.”
It is currently believed that doctors at the Royal Free approached Google about developing the system. Google has not ruled out the use of data for other purposes, but has stated that it will only be used for improving healthcare needs and will never be linked to other Google accounts or products.