DeepMind and NHS data-sharing deal criticised

Google's DeepMind, and the NHS are being criticised for their data-sharing deal, with critics saying it's completely stepping out of line.

For those who need a little background: The NHS and Google-owned DeepMind have announced, last February, that they'll be working together to create an app, called Streams, to help fight acute kidney injury (AKI).

Obviously, to make the app useful, it needs a lot of data from people with the condition. However, New Scientist got its hands onto the data-sharing agreement between DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust, operating three hospitals, with 1.6 million patients every year.

According to the agreement, DeepMind Health is getting access to a much larger set of data – including admissions, discharge and transfer data, accidents, emergencies, pathology and radiology, as well as critical care.

Obviously, people were not pleased, and MedConfidential was the loudest in its protests, saying it makes no sense to gather data from people that don’t do kidney function tests.

However, Royal Free's spokesperson defended the agreement in a phone call with Tech Crunch, saying AKI is a widespread issue, and that the app needs a lot of data to be able to properly determine it occurring in patients.

“Acute kidney injury affects one in six patients. So it’s not that this is being used to treat people with specific kidney conditions. It’s used to spot the likelihood of acute kidney injury occurring in any in patient. So the way it does that is not just by assessing their blood test results but looking at their patient history. That’s why they get the full patient records,” he said.

DeepMind’s Senior Clinician Scientist Dominic King said AKI contributes to 40,000 deaths a year in the UK, many of which are preventable.

Image Credit: Rob Hyron / Shutterstock