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NHS partners with Google's DeepMind AI to improve healthcare

Google has revealed that its AI engine Deep Mind is currently using NHS data to aid doctors and health care professionals diagnose patients, which has raised concerns over patient privacy.

The company's AI has been employed by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in London, who claim that the technology can help free up over half a million hours per year spent on paperwork and the extra time could be allotted to treating patients.

DeepMind is used at the hospital to send alerts to doctors when one of their patients is likely to enter into a critical state. For example, a doctor would be notified if the AI detected that a patient with a kidney condition was about to have a kidney episode. This would free up the doctor's time as they would no longer need to constantly check on patients throughout the day and could devote their time to patients facing life-threatening conditions.

Patients are able to utilise DeepMind through an app called 'Streams' that is encrypted at both ends so their medical data is not shared with Google, though some privacy campaigners are still concerned. Currently, the program is in its pilot phase, but it could become monetised if successful. So far using the Streams app has made it significantly easier for doctors as they no longer need to search through medical records for patterns.

A spokesperson from the lobby group Med Confidential voiced their concerns regarding the program, saying: “Our concern is that Google gets data on every patient who has attended the hospital in the last five years and they're getting a big monthly report of data on every patient who was in the hospital.”

Professor Jane Dacre, the President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Whenever we develop new ways of using patient data, it is essential that safeguards are in place for appropriateness and confidentially, but with these we should embrace the opportunity to improve healthcare quality and reduce the burdens of bureaucracy on clinicians so they can focus on their patients.”

Image Credit: Denis Linine / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

After getting his start at ITProPortal and then working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches to how to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.