The NHS could be applying machine learning-style processing to its patient, doctor and hospital data in an effort to improve efficiency within five years if plans by Google/DeepMind to push into the healthcare sector are approved.
According to New Scientist, which has obtained a Memorandum of Understanding drawn up between DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust in London, the two organisations are attempting to form a "broad ranging, mutually beneficial partnership, engaging in high levels of collaborative activity and maximising the potential to work on genuinely innovative and transformative projects."
Among the areas the project aims to touch on are making improvements in clinical outcomes and patient safety, and reducing costs throughout the organisation. The memo also sets out a long list of "areas of mutual interest" where the two organisations could work together over the next five years, including bed and demand management software, financial control products, private messaging and task management for junior doctors, and even real-time health prediction.
In fact, health prediction has formed the basis of the first project between the two partners, with Google/DeepMind creating an app called Streams that aims to study healthcare data to try to identify patients at risk of deterioration, readmission or even death.
The investigation by New Scientists suggests that Streams may have made use of data on kidney conditions without first contacting the relevant regulatory authorities, while earlier research revealed that a data-sharing agreement between the Trust and Google's AI company gave DeepMind access to identifiable personal medical information on millions of UK citizens.
Tests of Streams have reportedly been running on-and-off since December 2015, but Google/DeepMind is yet to be registered as a manufacturer on by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), which regulates all medical products, including apps and other software.
Whether there has been any wrongdoing or not on Google/DeepMind's part, it's clear that the firm believes there is a substantial market for AI and machine learning apps within the healthcare sector, and has a long term plan to work with healthcare providers to develop the necessary software to secure itself a place in this new industry.