09:54 GMT23 October 2020
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    An estimated 1.6 million patient records have reportedly been handed over by the UK National Health Service, as part of a data sharing agreement with a scientific subsidiary of Google: Deep Mind.

    The project — which was initiated by the Royal Free London NHS Trust — hopes to develop an app which can speed up detection of acute kidney injury, through immediate blood test reviews which can be transmitted to clinicians via a smartphone.

    But critics have raised questions regarding potential confidentiality breaches, as well as a lack of consultation with patients, whose ability to opt out of the project could be complicated.

    Phil Booth, coordinator of the campaign group MedConfidential, told Sputnik:

    "There's a difference between an advance for patients treated and data on everyone for unknown purposes. This project does both, and the second part should be of concern to everyone, as that is the data Google got. Ethical research requires a justification — Google still haven't provided one."

    A spokesperson for NHS England told Sputnik that the information in question only represents a very small portion of patient data, and that it will not be available for commercial purposes.

    Likewise, DeepMind have insisted that all data is encrypted, and totally confidential — in a statement they said:

    "Absolutely no patient-identifiable data is shared with DeepMind. All information sent to and processed by this app, named Streams, is encrypted and is only decrypted once returned to the clinician's device.

    "Our arrangement with DeepMind is the standard NHS information-sharing agreement set out by NHS England's corporate information governance department, and is the same as the other 1,500 agreements with third-party organisations that process NHS patient data."

    Based in the UK, DeepMind is an artificial intelligence company which was acquired by Google in 2014. Earlier this year, DeepMind announced that it would be working with the NHS in creating an app to help monitor patients with kidney disease. 

    DeepMind have not made any further announcements regarding its work with the NHS, but it is believed to be working on a number of healthcare related projects with the UK Health service.

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    Tags:
    patients, society, access, records, health, Deep Mind, Google, National Health Service (NHS), United Kingdom
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