DeepMind signs up another hospital despite data controversy

Stethoscope next to keyboard and coffee cup

DeepMind has signed up another NHS trust despite the controversy surrounding its previous medical data deals.

The machine learning firm bought in 2014 by Google's parent firm Alphabet has signed an agreement with Musgrove Park Hospital, part of the Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust, to use the Streams clinical app.

Streams pulls together patient data and analyses it to predict serious issues such as kidney failure. It's already in use at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where a data sharing agreement between the trust and DeepMind raised concerns that millions of sensitive medical records were being handed to the Google-owned company without patient consent.

That data sharing has since been called "inexcusable" by academics researching the deal, and criticised by health data watchdog Dame Fiona Calidcott. The Information Commissioner's Office is still investigating the arrangement, and the Royal Free and DeepMind have tweaked their original deal in response.

With the Musgrove Park Hospital deal, there doesn't appear to be a way for patients to opt out of sharing their data with Google's DeepMind, but the two organisations said they would host "workshops, displays and open day events so that staff, patients, and the public can see how the app works". Those events will happen before any data is processed by DeepMind.

Musgrove Park hospital said in a statement: "The new Streams app uses tried and tested NHS guidance (algorithms) to process patient information in order to raise safety alerts. It will not use any information that is not already available to hospital staff. Patient data remains at all times under the control of Musgrove Park Hospital."

DeepMind said this week that nurses at Royal Free have saved up to two hours each day on tasks that are now handled by the app.