This morning Google announced that the health team at DeepMind, an artificial intelligence Alphabet subsidiary primarily focused on research, is joining Google Health.
“Under the leadership of Dr. David Feinberg, and alongside other teams at Google, we’ll now be able to tap into global expertise in areas like app development, data security, cloud storage and user-centered design to build products that support care teams and improve patient outcomes,” Dominic King, UK site lead at Google Health, said in a blog announcing the news.
This isn’t exactly a surprise. Last November the tech conglomerate announced that DeepMind’s Health team would be joining Google Health.
WHY IT MATTERS
In the announcement, the team said that the two companies will be able to use resources from one another. However, since its acquisition in 2014, there have been a lot of questions about how Google will be using the AI company, in particular its privacy and data sharing policies.
DeepMind has come under the microscope in recent years for its data sharing practices. Shortly after DeepMind inked a deal with the NHS, an investigative report from the New Scientist revealed that Google would have access to a wealth of health data without consent from patients. DeepMind and the NHS announced a new agreement addressing the data concerns before the year’s end, although an independent panel report released in July of the next year still shared some concerns.
King attempted to address this concern in today's announcement, explaining that the transition will be gradual.
“It’s clear that a transition like this takes time," he said. "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."
This isn’t the only time DeepMind and Google have jointly been under fire for data sharing.
DeepMind was at the heart of a class action lawsuit against Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center, which held accusations of patient privacy violations following a data agreement inked between the two. The author of the suit linked the patient data agreement to Google’s acquisition of DeepMind, and suggests that this technology has the ability to make connections within the health records.
THE LARGER TREND
DeepMind has certainly had its ups and downs. In early August DeepMind released its latest strategic report, revealing that its losses for the financial year were £470 million, or roughly $571 million.
However, the company also boasts several wins. In August of 2018, Nature Medicine published results of a study that demonstrated DeepMind’s AI system was able to diagnose eye disease as accurately as leading human specialists. More recently, Nature published study results of DeepMind’s Stream system, which was able detect acute kidney injury (AKI) two days before it would occur.