Google's artificial intelligence unit DeepMind is getting serious about healthcare - with ambitious plans to digitise the NHS - but first it needs to convince patients to hand over their medical records. Back in February, it began work with the Royal Free to create an app to help doctors spot patients who might be at risk of developing kidney disease. The first most knew of the partnership was when it emerged some months later that it would be accessing 1.6 million patient records as part of the deal. That led to some pretty negative headlines and questions from some of the patients involved as to why they had not been informed their data was being used in this way. The app - dubbed Streams - is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) while the National Data Guardian, which is tasked with safeguarding health data, is also looking at it.
Already, the two organizations are testing software that allows medical providers to search a patient's electronic health record by specific data categories and create graphs of the information, like blood test results over time, according to internal documents obtained by The New York Times. The aim is to give medical professionals better access to patient data, to improve patient care and, ultimately, to try to glean insights from the data to help treatment. Google is teaming up with Ascension, a nonprofit, as American consumer tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft jockey to gain a bigger share of the huge health care market. Apple has expanded into virtual medical research using its iPhone and Apple Watch. Microsoft has introduced cloud-based tools to help health systems share medical data.
A former patient of the University of Chicago Medical Center is suing the institution amid claims it violated patients' privacy rights. The class-action lawsuit claims records containing identifiable patient information were shared as a result of a partnership between Google and the University of Chicago. All three institutions are named as defendants in the suit, which was filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Illinois by Matt Dinerstein, who received treatment at the medical center during two hospital stays in 2015. The collaboration between Google and the University of Chicago was launched in 2017 to study electronic health records and develop new machine-learning techniques to create predictive models that could prevent unplanned hospital readmissions, avoid costly complications and save lives, according to a 2017 news release from the university. The tech giant has similar partnerships with Stanford University and the University of California-San Francisco.
The deal between Google and the U.K. National Health Service was profiled by Digital Journal last November. The agreement centered on plans to develop a platform capable of sharing patient data with the aim of improving patient outcomes. This was by providing information about medical conditions with the aid of artificial intelligence. A secondary aim was to reduce the amount of paperwork by digitizing patient records. One aspect of the project involve sharing some million patient records, provided by London's Royal Free Hospital, with DeepMind.