School of Law

Should the NHS share patient data with Google's DeepMind?

25 May 2016 |

Should the NHS share patient data with Google's DeepMind?

Dr Subhajit Basu, Associate Professor in Information Technology Law, discusses concerns relating to the recent Royal Free NHS Trust/Google DeepMind data sharing agreement for WIRED.

In giving Google access to the healthcare data of nearly 1.6 million patients, the Royal Free NHS Trust, which is based in London, has used a loophole around implied consent. It did not require patient consent for direct care, and the great unknown is how much Google is going to extend the definition of implied consent to fit its purpose.  DeepMind also has been given access to the historical data that the Royal Free NHS Trust submits to the Secondary User Service (SUS) database – the wider NHS centralised record of all hospital treatments in the UK.

Dr Basu argues that there's a sense of inevitability when it comes to patient privacy and the use of innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence in healthcare. In order to realise the full potential of an information society, anonymised data must be used and must also — at times — be shared. 

Dr Basu notes the need for data to be shared across organisational boundaries in order to help a specific patient, or to design and pay for a service, is undeniable. He notes what is intriguing about the relationship between Google-owned DeepMind and Royal Free NHS Trust is the amount of personal data being shared without the direct consent of patients.

You can read the full article here; Should the NHS share patient data with Google's DeepMind?

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