DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company that was acquired by Google in 2014, is planning to roll out a smartphone app that has the potential to save people’s lives to medics at another NHS Trust in London
The company — backed by the likes of Tesla billionaire Elon Musk before it was bought for around £400 million by Google — announced on its website on Thursday that it has signed a five-year partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
As a result of the deal, medics working in hospitals operated by the Trust, which include St Mary’s, Hammersmith, and Charing Cross, will receive access to a DeepMind smartphone app know as Streams.
The app, which doesn’t yet involve any of the AI technology that DeepMind is known for, allows clinicians to see electronic patient records on their smartphones and get alerts when their patient’s conditions start to deteriorate. Blood test data and other pathological data will be uploaded onto Streams and clinicians will receive push notifications if their patients have unusually high or low results.
Dr Sanjay Gautama, Caldicott Guardian and chief clinical information officer for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said in a statement that apps “bring immense opportunities for faster and more efficient care, by making access to vital information quicker and easier for clinicians.” Gautama added that apps need to be linked to the core electronic patient record system if they are to be useful and safe.
Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder of DeepMind and head of the DeepMind Applied unit, said in a statement that DeepMind will be “implementing infrastructure to help the Trust to work securely with a wide range of other apps.”
DeepMind said the task management features in Streams are underpinned by research and early product development for an app called Hark.
Hark is a university spinout app that was cofounded by Imperial professor Lord Ara Darzi and Dr Dominic King, now a senior clinician scientist at DeepMind. DeepMind hasn’t said too much about Hark since it was acquired in February 2016 for an undisclosed sum.
Privacy campaigners want DeepMind and the NHS to be even more transparent
This is DeepMind’s second NHS partnership for clinical apps. The company has a similar partnership with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
On Wednesday, the Royal Free refused to disclose how much money it is paying DeepMind to use Streams after Business Insider filed a freedom of information (FoI) request asking for the figures. Imperial College Healthcare is also paying DeepMind an unknown sum for Streams.
DeepMind’s work on the Streams app with the Royal Free was criticised by privacy campaigners in April when New Scientist published an article highlighting the extent of the data-sharing agreement between the two organisations.
The agreement with Royal Free gives DeepMind access to the full medical history for 1.6 million patients, including their full name, date of birth, blood test results, past procedures, and underlying diagnoses. It also allows DeepMind to see things like whether a patient has ever had a drug overdose, what their HIV status is, and whether they have had an abortion.
After New Scientist revealed the extent of the data sharing agreement, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office began an investigation.
DeepMind insists that it follows all of the necessary procedures and that many other technology companies also have access to this sort of patient data. It’s also keen to stress that the data isn’t shared with Google.
But Julia Powles, who works on technology law and policy at the University of Cambridge, thinks DeepMind needs to be treated differently. She’s writing a report along the lines of “DeepMind Health and its dubious access to the highly sensitive patient records of millions of unwitting Londoners,” according to The Financial Times.
“They are categorically different to another electronic healthcare provider,” Powles told Business Insider. “They try to analogise to [electronic health records provider] Cerner but they are not the same. They are delivering particular products for a segment of the population, but collecting and holding data on everyone.”