Google's DeepMind gains access to wide swath of British healthcare data

Under an agreement with the UK's National Health Service, DeepMind has access to health care data on more than a million patients from three London hospitals.

Under an agreement with the UK's National Health Service (NHS), Google's AI unit DeepMind has gained access to health care data on patients from three London hospitals, New Scientist reports. That amounts to data on the approximately 1.6 million patients who use those hospitals on an annual basis, as well as historical data collected by the Royal Free London NHS Trust.

New Scientist obtained a document laying out the terms of the agreement, which refers to DeepMind's development of an analytics-as-a service platform for the NHS. It's referred to as "Patient Rescue," though New Scientist reports that name is no longer in use. The platform, the document says, will perform analyses on live and batch data streams. It could, for instance, help provide real-time clinical diagnoses and support doctors' treatment decisions. The document also specifically refers to providing patient safety alerts for acute kidney injury.

Earlier this year, DeepMind did announce a partnership with the Royal Free London NHS Trust to develop an app to help identify kidney patients at risk earlier. However, DeepMind has gained access to datasets that include much more than information pertinent to kidney disease -- it includes information like visitor records, certain pathology and radiology test results, and data from emergency room visits. Google reportedly said it needed to collect this much data because there is no separate dataset for people with kidney problems.

The current pilots are under way for free, and Google reportedly has no commercial plans for its work with the Royal Free London NHS Trust. The agreement says Google cannot use the data for any other part of its business. The agreement also specifies secure means of transferring the data and dictates that the data will be stored by a third party -- not DeepMind.

The project is slated to end in September 2017, at which point DeepMind must relinquish its access to the data and destroy any copies of it.

DeepMind's venture into the health care sector is no surprise, given the potential for artificial intelligence to profoundly change the way patients are diagnosed and treated. The market for artificial intelligence in the health care industry is expected to reach $6 billion by 2021, according to analyst Frost & Sullivan.

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