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UK Hospitals Sign Patient Data Deals With Google

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Google has signed deals with five National Health Service (NHS) trusts in the U.K. to process patient data, according to a report by the Financial Times

The deals are reportedly the first of their kind, and come after London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind reverted control back to parent company Google. 

DeepMind had deals with six NHS trusts to develop an app called Streams, which would let staff know when patients might be at risk of an acute kidney injury.

Two years ago, the Information Commissioner’s Office passed a ruling that the Royal Free Hospital NHS Foundation Trust unlawfully transferred 1.6 million records to DeepMind, because patients had not been informed about what happened with their data. 

Five of the trusts that already had contracts with DeepMind decided to sign with Google. Yeovil District Hospital NHS trust chose not to because it wasn’t going to use Streams, and Taunton and Somerset NHS trust signed with Google but also chose not to use Streams.

The data shared includes ethnic origin, treatment dates, medical history and diagnoses. 

In November, Google announced that DeepMind would be absorbed by Google Health. Around that time Google aslo got rid of an independent review panel made up of academics and data experts to provide oversight while medical data was being utilized. 

Google said it was not going to bring the panel back, or provide the contracts to the public. 

Then, in December, health minister James O’Shaughnessy said the government would open an inquiry into Google to see why it had dissolved the panel, and what it planned to do going forward. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care did not say whether that was ever completed, or if the department received the information it was looking for. 

The former chair of the panel, Professor Donal O’Donoghue, said, “I am disappointed that the IR experiment did not have the time to run its course.”

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