DeepMind Health inks new deal with UK’s NHS to deploy Streams app in early 2017 – TechCrunch

 In Health


DeepMind Health, the division of the Google-owned AI company that’s focused on building links to healthcare providers to drive the application of machine learning algorithms for preventative medicine, has inked a fresh data-sharing agreement with the NHS Royal Free Hospital Trust in London.

It’s the second agreement signed between the pair — and it supersedes their original agreement inked last year, which ran into controversy after a freedom of information request by New Scientist revealed the volume of patient identifiable medical data (PID) flowing from the Royal Free to DeepMind, and raised questions about whether NHS information governance principles were being correctly followed. The data in question was being used to power an app called Streams, built by DeepMind but using an NHS algorithm to generate alerts on patients at risk of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI).

At the time the collaboration was made public, last February, no details were provided about how much PID was being shared between DeepMind and the NHS — leading to huge consternation when the scope of the arrangement emerged.

The U.K.’s data watchdog, the ICO, began investigating complaints about the data-sharing agreement. The Streams app also ran into trouble when it was revealed DeepMind and the Royal Free had not registered it as a medical device with the oversight body, the MHRA, despite piloting the app in the Royal Free’s hospitals. The MHRA had not been approached prior to starting tests of the app.

The pair subsequently suspended use of Streams in the hospitals. But they’re now announcing plans to restart the project — and, evidently, to try to reset it onto a firmer information governance footing. Above all this is an attempt to improve the tarnished public image of DeepMind’s inaugural push into preventative healthcare by trying to secure patient trust — to, ultimately, grease the future funnel for more data flows from the NHS to DeepMind.

The point is, healthcare-related AI needs very high-quality data sets to nurture the kind of smarts DeepMind is hoping to be able to build. And the publicly funded NHS has both a wealth of such data and a pressing need to reduce costs — incentivizing it to accept the offer of “free” development work and wide-ranging partnerships with DeepMind (which has several other projects on the go with other NHS Trusts).

DeepMind and the Royal Free confirmed today that the Streams app has now been registered as a medical device with the MHRA, and said it is ready to be deployed in the Royal Free’s hospitals from early next year.

“Following prototype testing, as well as registration with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), this first version of Streams is ready to be deployed to clinicians across the Royal Free hospital sites early in 2017. It is expected to result in an immediate improvement in AKI-related patient safety and outcomes,” they write in a press release about what they describe as the “next phase” of their collaboration.

There also looks to be a broadening of the scope, with the PR talking about expanding the app’s remit to cover early detection of sepsis and organ failure, as well as AKI.

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