Patient consent misused by Google in UK?

96072733_nhsstreamsThe head of the United Kingdom’s Department of Health’s National Data Guardian (NDG) has criticised the NHS for the deal it struck with Google’s DeepMind over sharing patient data. In a letter dated February and leaked to Sky News, Dame Fiona Caldicott throws doubt on the legality of sharing 1.6 million patient records.

Patients should have been informed about the deal, she says. Google said that the deal was covered by “implied consent”. This rule exists to allow the NHS to share medical data with third parties for direct patient care, without informing patients about each deal.

In the case of the partnership with DeepMind, data was collected from patients at the Royal Free Hospital Trust in London in order to test an app to help doctors and nurses identify those who might be at risk of acute kidney disease.

In her letter to Prof Stephen Powis, medical director of the Royal Free Hospital in London, Dame Fiona said: “We keenly appreciate the great benefits that new technologies such as Streams can offer to patients, in terms of better, safer, more timely care.”

But she added: “It is absolutely paramount that this is done in a transparent and secure manner, which helps to build public trust, otherwise the full benefits of such developments will not be realised , and indeed harm may be done.”

She questioned the use of “implied consent” as the legal basis for the transfer of identifiable patient records, because the data was initially used just to test the app.

“My considered opinion therefore remains that it would not have been within the reasonable expectation of patients that their records would have been shared for this purpose,” she says.

Read the full article in BBC News

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