Digital health news briefs for 5/16/17

By Jonah Comstock
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More on Google DeepMind’s patient data misconduct. Google DeepMind’s partnership with the NHS is back in the news again as some new information emerged in the form of a leaked letter from National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott to the director of the Royal Free Hospital, where DeepMind’s apps were tested. The letter, published by Sky News, gives a glimpse into the UK government’s ongoing investigation of DeepMind.

British healthcare privacy law has a provision called “implied consent” which allows the sharing of patient records only if it's for their direct care. But, according to Caldicott’s letter, since DeepMind was still in development and wasn’t being relied upon for patient care, that provision shouldn’t apply, which makes the sharing of the data potentially illegal.

DeepMind and the NHS signed a new agreement with increased patient protections last fall, but investigation into the original data breach (which came to light via investigative work from the New Scientist) continues.

Digital health figures in lobbying drama. GQ published a profile yesterday of Trump campaign staffer Corey Lewandowski and his post-campaign attempts to leverage his connection to Trump for personal gain. 

The piece reveals that healthcare AI startup Flow Health’s deal with the Department of Veterans Affairs that we reported on last fall was short-lived: The VA terminated the relationship in December. Flow Health allegedly approached Lewandowski and his consulting firm Avenue Strategies to try to get the decision reversed. 

Mood Challenge has a winner. Last spring, New Venture Fund and Luminary Labs launched a developer challenge, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to build a ResearchKit app to further understanding of mood and its affect on health. The winner, BiAffect, will track how keystroke dynamics like typing speed, frequency of texting, and social media use are altered during depressive and manic episodes in bipolar disorder.

“In essence, the vision of BiAffect is a pioneering platform that will serve as a “fitness tracker” of the brain. The Mood Challenge has helped us realize this vision, with the ultimate goal of addressing the needs of a population that is often tech-savvy but currently poorly served by existing mHealth tools,” BiAffect team lead Dr. Alex Leow, associate professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the University of Illinois, said in a statement.