A data-sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust – gives the clearest picture yet of what the company is doing and what sensitive data it now has access to.
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 Farm 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.
DeepMind announced in February that it was working with the NHS, saying it was building an app called Streams to help hospital staff monitor patients with kidney disease. But the agreement suggests that it has plans for a lot more.
This is the first we’ve heard of DeepMind getting access to historical medical records, says Sam Smith, who runs health data privacy group MedConfidential. “This is not just about kidney function. They’re getting the full data.”
The agreement clearly states that Google cannot use the data in any other part of its business. The data itself will be stored in the UK by a third party contracted by Google, not in DeepMind’s offices. DeepMind is also obliged to delete its copy of the data when the agreement expires at the end of September 2017.
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.”
Still, some are likely to be concerned by the amount of information being made available to Google. It includes logs of day-to-day hospital activity, such as records of the location and status of patients – as well as who visits them and when. The hospitals will also share the results of certain pathology and radiology tests.
As well as receiving this continuous stream of new data, DeepMind has access to the historical data that the Royal Free trust submits to the Secondary User Service (SUS) database – the NHS’s centralized record of all hospital treatments in the UK. This includes data from critical care and accident and emergency departments.
The document also reveals that DeepMind is developing a platform called Patient Rescue, which will provide data analytics services to NHS hospital trusts. It states that Patient Rescue will use data streams from hospitals to build other tools, in addition to Streams, that could carry out real-time analysis of clinical data and support diagnostic decisions. One aim, the agreement says, is for these tools to help medical staff adhere to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.
DeepMind is not planning to automate clinical decisions – such as what treatments to give patients – but says it wants to support doctors by making predictions based on data that is too broad in scope for an individual to take in
Comparing a new patient’s information with millions of other cases, Patient Rescue might be able to predict that they are in the early stages of a disease that has not yet become symptomatic, for example. Doctors could then run tests to see if the prediction is correct.
SOURCE – New Scientist