Google DeepMind, Royal Free London NHS face scrutiny over patient data: 4 things to know

In 2016, Google's artificial intelligence arm DeepMind launched a large-scale health project with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The deal has since come under scrutiny, due to concerns about lack of transparency with patients, according to BBC News.

Here are four things to know.

1. The deal between DeepMind and Royal Free London NHS allowed the hospital to share more than 1 million patient records with DeepMind. The goal was to build an app, called Streams, to help physicians manage acute kidney injury. Today, more than 25 physicians and nurses at the hospital are using the app, which alerts them of roughly 11 patients at risk of AKI each day.

2. DeepMind and Royal Free London NHS have faced criticism over an alleged lack of transparency. In a recent academic paper published in Health and Technology, technology reporter Hal Hodson and legal researcher Julia Powles, PhD, wrote it was "inexcusable" for the organizations to use patient data without sufficient patient knowledge. "The collaboration has suffered from a lack of clarity and openness, with issues of privacy and power emerging as potent challenges," the authors wrote.

3. In response to Mr. Hodson and Dr. Powles' critiques, DeepMind and Royal Free London NHS released a joint statement, arguing the paper mischaracterized their work. "This paper completely misrepresents the reality of how the NHS uses technology to process data," the organizations wrote. "It makes a series of significant factual and analytical errors, assuming that this kind of data agreement is unprecedented."

4. The Streams app is currently under investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office, a nondepartmental public body that reports to the U.K. Parliament, with assistance from the U.K. National Data Guardian. ICO told BBC News the "investigation into the sharing of patient information between the Royal Free NHS Trust and Deep Mind is close to conclusion."

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