The NHS Royal Free Trust said it plans to continue testing a kidney monitoring app developed by Google DeepMind, despite regulators moving in.
The app, known as Streams, aims to help clinicians detect acute kidney injury (AKI) — a condition that kills more than 1,000 people a month.
A Royal Free spokesman denied that trials with DeepMind had been suspended after TechCrunch reported the app was not currently being used.
“We haven’t stopped anything,” the spokesman told Business Insider on Wednesday. But when asked about future trials, he said there are “no dates set.”
“We have been in contact with Google since May 4 and are currently in discussions with them about whether or not their app needs to be registered as a device,” a spokesman for the MHRA told TechCrunch.
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is also investigating the partnership between the two organisations after receiving a small number of complaints from individuals.
So far, the Royal Free has carried out three small “user tests” for the Streams app involving an unspecified number of patients. Each trial lasted between two and six days and involved up to six clinicians.
DeepMind came under scrutiny after New Scientist revealed it had signed an extensive data-sharing agreement with the NHS Royal Free Trust to develop the Streams app. The agreement gives DeepMind access to 1.6 million medical records for patients across three London hospitals: Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free.
Through the data-sharing agreement with the NHS, DeepMind will be able to see data that is unrelated to kidney function, including whether people are HIV-positive as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. Privacy campaigners and healthcare professionals have questioned why DeepMind needs access to so much data to develop a relatively niche app.
A board of healthcare experts and government tech leaders are due to scrutinise DeepMind’s work with the NHS. This is something that DeepMind announced when it revealed it had started working with the NHS back in February.
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