Google granted access to 1.6 million NHS patient records

Google has been granted access to approximately 1.6 million NHS patient records so that its artificial intelligence company can develop an app-based healthcare warning system.

According to New Scientist magazine, the data sharing agreement gives Google’s artificial intelligence company DeepMind access to patient data at the Royal Free, Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust.


App-based warning system

The deal, which makes five years’ worth of data available, will be used by DeepMind to build an app-based early warning system for patients at risk of acute kidney injuries. However, Google has not ruled out using the information for other purposes if it involved improving healthcare.

The shared data includes full names and patient histories, as well as sensitive information on HIV testing, details of abortions, drug overdoses and real-time NHS data on admissions, discharges and patient transfers.

In a statement, the Royal Free Trust said: “Our arrangement with DeepMind is the standard NHS information-sharing agreement set out by NHS England’s corporate information governance department, and is the same as the other 1,500 agreements with third-party organisations that process NHS patient data.

“As with all information sharing agreements with non-NHS organisations, patients can opt out of any data-sharing system by contacting the trust’s data protection officer.”


Encrypted data

It added that doctors from the Trust approached DeepMind about the development of the app, known as Streams, and that shared data has been encrypted so that individuals cannot be identified by Google staff. The deal states that DeepMind must delete its copy of the data in September 2017, when the deal expires.

DeepMind was founded in the UK in 2010 in order to find applications for artificial intelligence technologies created by British researchers, and was acquired by Google in 2014.

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