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.
Newly determined to forge a better relationship with the public, Google hosted its first ever patient engagement forum this week at its new headquarters in King’s Cross, pledging that it wanted, in future, to work in closer partnership with the public.
“Patients are at the heart of what we do and as we embark on this decade-long opportunity, we really need a diverse group of people to help us design the products,” said Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind and head of DeepMind Health.
The audience was polite during the presentation – making encouraging comments and seeming excited about the possibilities.
So far, DeepMind has two other continuing projects:
- research into age-related macular degeneration at Moorfields Eye Hospital which will involve the use of one million anonymised patient scans
- a new partnership with University College Hospital to see if machine learning can speed up the time it takes to plan radiotherapy for head and neck cancers.
But, during the course of the forum, it became clear that DeepMind has much more ambitious plans when it comes to patient data, so much so that anyone attending could have been forgiven for thinking that it had won a contract to digitise the NHS.
Mr Suleyman spoke at length about a patient portal that would be accessible to both patients and doctors and available on their own smartphones.
Copyright: BBC Technology http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-37439221