Google has accomplished a controversial take-over of the well being division of its UK AI acquisition, DeepMind.
The personnel transfer had been delayed as National Health Service (NHS) trusts thought of whether or not to shift their current DeepMind contracts — some for a scientific process administration app, others involving predictive well being AI analysis — to Google.
In a weblog submit yesterday Dr Dominic King, previously of DeepMind (and the NHS), now UK web site lead at Google Health, confirmed the switch, writing: “It’s clear that a transition like this takes time. Health data is sensitive, and we gave proper time and care to make sure that we had the full consent and cooperation of our partners. This included giving them the time to ask questions and fully understand our plans and to choose whether to continue our partnerships. As has always been the case, our partners are in full control of all patient data and we will only use patient data to help improve care, under their oversight and instructions.”
The Royal Free NHS Trust, Taunton & Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust all put out statements yesterday confirming they’ve moved their contractual preparations to Google.
In the case of the Royal Free, sufferers’ Streams information is shifting to the Google Cloud Platform infrastructure to help increasing use of the app which surfaces alerts for a kidney situation to a different of its hospitals (Barnet Hospital).
One NHS belief, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has not signed a brand new contract — and says it had by no means deployed Streams, suggesting it had not discovered a passable approach to combine the app with its current methods of working — as an alternative taking the choice to terminate the association. Though it’s leaving the door open to future well being service provision from Google.
A spokeswoman for Yeovil hospital despatched us this assertion:
We started our relationship with DeepMind in 2017 and since then have been figuring out what half the Streams utility may play in scientific determination making right here at Yeovil Hospital.
The app was by no means operationalised, and no affected person information was processed.
What’s key for us as a hospital, relating to contemplating the implementation of any new piece of expertise, is whether or not it improves the effectiveness and security of affected person care and the way it tessellates with current methods of working. Working with the DeepMind staff, we discovered that Streams is just not crucial for our organisation on the present time.
Whilst our contractual relationship has ended, we are going to stay an anchor accomplice of Google Health so will proceed to be a part of conversations about rising expertise which can be of profit to our sufferers and our clinician sooner or later.
The hand-off of DeepMind Health to Google, which was introduced simply over a 12 months in the past, means the tech large is now instantly offering software program companies to quite a few NHS trusts that had signed contracts with DeepMind for Streams; in addition to taking on a number of AI analysis partnerships that contain using NHS sufferers’ information to attempt to develop predictive diagnostic fashions utilizing AI expertise.
DeepMind — which kicked off its well being efforts by signing an settlement with the Royal Free NHS Trust in 2015, happening to publicly announce the well being division in spring 2016 — stated final 12 months its future focus can be as a “research organisation”.
As not too long ago as this July DeepMind was additionally touting a predictive healthcare analysis “breakthrough” — asserting it had educated a deep studying mannequin for constantly predicting the longer term probability of a affected person creating a life-threatening situation known as acute kidney damage. (Though the AI is educated on closely gender-skewed information from the US division of Veteran Affairs.)
Yet it’s now turn out to be clear that it’s handed off a number of of its key NHS analysis partnerships to Google Health as a part of the Streams switch.
In its assertion in regards to the transfer yesterday, UCLH writes that “it was proposed” that its DeepMind analysis partnership — which is said to radiotherapy therapy for sufferers with head and neck most cancers — be transferred to Google Health, saying this may allow it to “make use of Google’s scale and experience to deliver potential breakthroughs to patients more rapidly”.
“We will retain control over the anonymised data and remain responsible for deciding how it is used,” it provides. “The anonymised data is encrypted and only accessible to a limited number of researchers who are working on this project with UCLH’s permission. Access to the data will only be granted for officially approved research purposes and will be automatically audited and logged.”
It’s value stating that the notion of “anonymised” excessive dimension well being information ought to be handled with a wholesome diploma of scepticism — given the chance of re-identification.
Moorfields additionally identifies Google’s “resources” as the inducement for agreeing for its eye-scan associated analysis partnership to be handed off, writing: “This updated partnership will allow us to draw on Google’s resources and expertise to extend the benefits of innovations that AI offers to more of our clinicians and patients.”
Quite the place this leaves DeepMind’s ambitions to “lead the way in fundamental research applying AI to important science and medical research questions, in collaboration with academic partners, to accelerate scientific progress for the benefit of everyone”, because it put it final 12 months — when it characterised the hand-off to Google Health as all about ‘scaling Streams’ — stays to be seen.
We’ve reached out to DeepMind for touch upon that. Update: The firm advised us it’s now purely centered on basic science analysis areas, which incorporates medical questions, fairly than utilized healthcare — citing its analysis into protein folding for example. Whereas it stated Moorfields and UCLH have an interest within the translation of analysis into relevant applied sciences past basic analysis, making Google Health a greater match.
Co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, who’s been taking a depart of absence from the corporate, tweeted yesterday to congratulate the Google Health staff.
When we began DeepMind Health 3 years in the past it was as a result of we believed good analysis and good software program may make a distinction to sufferers & nurses & medical doctors. Proud to be a part of this journey. Huge progress delivered already, and a lot extra to return for this unbelievable staff. https://t.co/zynBrrlgUc
— Mustafa Suleyman (@mustafasuleymn) September 18, 2019
DeepMind’s NHS analysis contracts additionally transferring to Google Health suggests the tech giants desires zero separation between core AI well being analysis and the technique of utility, utilizing its personal cloud infrastructure, of any promising fashions it’s in a position to prepare off of affected person information and commercialize by promoting to the identical healthcare companies suppliers as apps and companies.
You may say Google is looking for to bundle entry to the excessive decision affected person information that’s important for creating well being AIs with the availability of economic digital healthcare companies it hopes to promote hospitals down the road, all funnelled by the identical Google cloud infrastructure.
As we reported on the time, the hand-off of DeepMind Health to Google is controversial.
Firstly as a result of the belief that partnered with DeepMind in 2015 to develop Streams was later discovered by the UK’s information safety watchdog to have breached UK regulation. The ICO stated there was no authorized foundation for the Royal Free to have shared the medical data of ~1.6M sufferers with DeepMind in the course of the app’s growth.
Despite issues being raised over the authorized foundation for sharing sufferers’ information all through 2016 and 2017 DeepMind continued inking NHS contracts for Streams — claiming on the time that affected person information would by no means be handed to Google. Yet quick ahead a few years and it’s now actually sitting on the tech large’s servers.
It’s that U-turn that led the DeepMind to Google Health hand-off to be branded a belief demolition by authorized consultants when the information was introduced final 12 months.
This summer season the UK’s affected person information watchdog, the National Data Guardian, launched correspondence between her workplace and the ICO which knowledgeable the latter’s 2017 discovering that Streams had breached information safety regulation — during which she articulates a transparent regulatory place that the “reasonable expectations” of sufferers should govern non-direct care makes use of for folks’s well being information, fairly than healthcare suppliers counting on medical doctors to determine whether or not they assume the supposed goal for folks’s medical data is justified.
The Google Health weblog submit talks loads about “patient care” and “patient data” however has nothing to say about sufferers’ expectations of how their private data ought to be used, with King writing that “our partners are in full control of all patient data and we will only use patient data to help improve care, under their oversight and instructions”.
It was precisely such an moral blindspot across the affected person’s perspective that led Royal Free medical doctors to override concerns about folks’s medical privateness within the rush to throw their lot in with Google-DeepMind and scramble for AI-fuelled predictive healthcare.
Patient consent was not looked for passing medical data then; nor have sufferers’ views been consulted within the switch of Streams contracts (and other people’s information) to Google now.
And whereas — after it was confronted with public outcry over the NHS information it was processing — DeepMind did go on to publish its contracts with NHS trusts (with some redactions), Google Health is just not providing any such transparency on the alternative contracts which were inked now. So it’s not clear whether or not there have been another adjustments to the phrases. Patients must take all that on belief.
We reached out to the Royal Free Trust with questions in regards to the new contract with Google however a spokeswoman simply pointed us to the assertion on its web site — the place it writes: “All migration and implementation will be completed to the highest standards of security and will be compliant with relevant data protection legislation and NHS information governance requirements.”
“As with all of our arrangements with third parties, the Royal Free London remains the data controller in relation to all personal data. This means we retain control over that personal data at all times and are responsible for deciding how that data is used for the benefit of patient care,” it provides.
In one other discount in transparency accompanying this hand-off from DeepMind to Google Health, an impartial panel of reviewers that DeepMind appointed to supervise its work with the NHS in one other bid to spice up belief has been disbanded.
“As we announced in November, that review structure — which worked for a UK entity primarily focused on finding and developing healthcare solutions with and for the NHS — is not the right structure for a global effort set to work across continents as well as different health services,” King confirmed yesterday.
In its annual report final 12 months the panel had warned of the chance of DeepMind exerting “excessive monopoly power” on account of the info entry and streaming infrastructure bundled with provision of the Streams app. For DeepMind then learn Google now.
Independent consultants elevating issues about monopoly energy unsurprisingly doesn’t align with Google’s world ambitions in future healthcare provision.
The final phrase from the impartial reviewers is a Medium submit penned by former chair, professor Donal O’Donoghue — who writes that he’s “disappointed that the IR experiment did not have the time to run its course and I am sad to say goodbye to a project I’ve found fascinating”.
“This was a fascinating exploration into how a new governance model could be applied to such an important area such as health,” he provides. “It’s hard to know how this would have developed over the years but… what is clear to me is that trust and transparency are of paramount importance in healthcare and I’m keen to see how Google Health, and other providers, deliver this in the future.”
But with belief demolished and transparency decreased Google Health seems to have learnt precisely nothing from DeepMind’s missteps.