Patient data API pivotal to DeepMind’s push into UK’s NHS

DeepMind Health’s inaugural collaboration with the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), initially focused on building an app for helping early detection of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), was relaunched earlier today — under a new information-sharing agreement with the Royal Free NHS Trust, and a broader scope for the collaboration.

The agreement lasts until at least 2021.

Under the arrangement, patient identifiable data (PID, aka people’s medical records) continues to be shared across a wide range of data types for some 1.6 million+ individuals who are being treated or have been treated at the Royal Free’s three London hospitals (five years of historical in-patient data is also made accessible under the arrangement).

The types of data being shared under ISA 1 and 2 (aka the legal contracts that set out how the data can be used) are described as “similar” by DeepMind — and a spokesman confirmed that patient data shared under the original arrangement has therefore not been deleted (given that they view it as a continuation of the same arrangement). The relevant section of ISA 2, detailing the data types being shared, can be found at the bottom of this post.

There are some notable additions to the project at this point — such as a plan to create a technical audit infrastructure to track and log individual access to patient data, and an explicit commitment in the ISA that Google will not use the PID for any other purpose, nor combine it with other data, nor sell data to third parties. (Although one legal expert we contacted was less reassured, noting for example there is no explicit bar on Google conducting marketing on the data.)

But buried at the bottom of the PR announcing the forthcoming roll-out of the Streams app in Royal Free hospitals in early 2017 is a major new facet to the collaboration: a plan to develop a data-sharing access infrastructure for the Royal Free, aka a FHIR (fast healthcare interoperability resources) API.

Noting this new development project in passing on the Streams website, DeepMind writes:

In time, we hope that [Streams] can help unlock the next wave of innovation in the NHS. The infrastructure that powers Streams is built on state-of-the-art open and interoperable standards (known as FHIR) allowing the Royal Free to have other developers build new services that integrate more easily with their systems.

More detail is provided in an FAQ further down the page — where it becomes clear the Streams AKI app is really just the initial showcase for the underlying data access and streaming infrastructure DeepMind is intending to create to facilitate/broker access to NHS patient data, via its API, with the aim of powering a third-party health app ecosystem.

Here DeepMind writes:

Currently, [patients’ complete medical history] information exists across several different hospital systems that don’t talk to each other as efficiently as they could, which has a knock-on effect on patient care. Streams will help bring that information together and allow doctors to access it securely and instantly on smartphones when they need it. But to make this happen, Streams and those systems need to use a shared computer language.

We have committed to building our infrastructure on open and interoperable standards, namely the FHIR API (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources Application Programming Interface) that many others across the sector have agreed will be a new standard in health tech. Not only will this ensure the data we process is in a modern infrastructure, but it will help to develop common information processing standards that other technologists and clinicians can also use to build their apps and other software which will improve patient care (subject to those third parties seeking all the appropriate approvals).

The first mention of the FHIR on the Streams website was earlier today — when DeepMind also added this explainer infographic of the intended infrastructure …

DeepMind Streams infrastructure

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