NHS England’s controversial care.data scheme may be all but dead and buried but the organisation is risking a new outcry after handing Google a contract to access to over 1.5 million patient records in new scheme to pinpoint people most at risk of kidney disease, blood poisoning and organ failure.
While it will allow doctors to intervene earlier, the deal – with one of the biggest NHS trust’s in the UK, the Royal Free in London – has raised fresh fears over patient privacy, despite the fact that the records will be anomynised.
Doctors will start using Google technology in the next few months, and health bosses claim the five-year deal will free up medics from desk work so they can spend an extra 500,000 hours per year with patients.
Royal Free chief executive David Sloman said: “We are hugely excited. We want to lead the way in healthcare technology and this new app will enable us to provide safer and faster care – which will save lives.”
The deal has reportedly trigged an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is probing the use of confidential data.
Meanwhile a spokesman for privacy group Medconfidential questioned what happens to the records of patients not at risk, but are still handed to Google. He said: “It’s not about the one in six who will be helped by the app but the five in six who don’t have this condition but whose data gets copied anyway.”
The scheme is run by Google’s artificial intelligence arm DeepMind, whose co-founder Mustafa Suleyman said: “We’re working with the Royal Free to give clinicians the information they need at their fingertips, saving time and alerting them to patients in need in seconds not hours.”
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