Artificial Intelligence

DeepMind, NHS use anonymized patient data in AI to avoid regulatory hurdles

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is anonymizing patient health data to gain insight into risks of ailments.

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) announced in a recent press release that it will anonymize patients' personal health data before sharing it with Alphabet's DeepMind. The process could help the pair more effectively train machine learning-based healthcare tools without the risk of compliance issues.

As noted by our sister site ZDNet, the two companies use the data to analyze blood results and detect risk of acute kidney injuries or other illnesses. Back in 2016, the NHS and Google's DeepMind received major flack for personal data being shared without explicit consent from patients, but the anonymization of the data could help alleviate these concerns.

"The new de-identification process (known as De-ID) will protect patient privacy by de-identifying a person's records in a consistent way," said privacy engineering company Privitar in the release. "This will mean that when the right legal basis, controls and safeguards are in place, data can be linked across different care settings and geographic boundaries."

SEE: Artificial intelligence: Trends, obstacles, and potential wins (Tech Pro Research)

While NHS previously had de-identification measures in place, De-ID provides a faster, automated process for de-identification across the whole system, NHS executive director of data, insights, and statistics Tom Denwood noted in the release.

Instead of each employee manually de-identifying every patient's record, De-ID automatically removes the individual's information, ensuring personal safety and privacy. "The health and care landscape is rapidly changing, and we can improve individual patient care if our systems can deliver a complete picture of their health and care," said Denwood.

The use of machine learning in the healthcare industry is growing expediently. Tools, like De-ID, allow healthcare providers to gain valuable insights from large amounts of data at a faster rate by limiting their risk of running into compliance or regulatory issues like the EU's GDPR.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to shape the healthcare industry, providing faster analysis and more effective solutions to problem-solving tactics. AI tools like natural-language processing and real-time machine learning combine with algorithms to help surface new insights and speed diagnosis time, said Forbes. And as more and more young parents get comfortable with the technology, it is possible that the children of millennial parents may never experience a doctor's appointment without the presence of medical artificial intelligence, as noted by an IEEE report.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Britain's NHS will use a de-identification tool to keep patients' personal data anonymous when used in AI-powered health tools, according to a press release from Privitar.
  • The NHS hopes to gain insight into kidney diseases from data taken across a large array of anonymous patients, through a partnership with Alphabet's DeepMind.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/metamorworks

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

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