Birmingham NHS trust passes medical data to Telefonica without patient consent

The data was anonymised and used to train Telefonica's mental health predicting AI

Another NHS trust has apparently handed over medical data to a tech company without first asking patients. 

According to a report in the Times, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust gave Telefonica access to five years of medical records. The data was anonymised, with names and addresses removed, but patient consent was not sought. 

The aim of the Telefonica project is to use an algorithm to spot when patients need mental health interventions, predicting if they will go into crisis in the next four weeks.

The report said initial trials on 25 users showed it "adding value to clinical care" but also returning many false positives, adding to doctors' workloads unnecessarily. 

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

So far, the Spanish tech giant has only used historical data, presumably for training its algorithm before it was used to make predictions on the 25 users for the test.

Related Resource

Your guide to overcoming Brexit's data management challenges

Understand Brexit and the data law modifications it may cause

Download now

"The healthcare data does not leave NHS servers and is not used by Telefonica for any reason outside of the pilot," it said in a statement to the Times

The project is in early stages, and for the second stage there are plans to incorporate phone data, such as location and message records, according to a Health Services Journal report from last year

For the second stage of the project, the trust will be asking the Information Commissioner's Office for advice before moving forward — it's unclear why the trust did not check in with the data watchdog before the initial trial. Patients will be able to opt-out of future work, but again, it's unclear why they weren't notified and asked for consent for the first stage of the project. 

The ICO has been approached for comment but has yet to respond. 

AI is increasingly being used in healthcare, with algorithms trained to spot different types of cancer from radiology images but also beginning to shift towards supporting diagnosis. However, the AI needs to be trained on data, hence such companies turning to the NHS.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Back in 2016, Google-owned DeepMind sparked a scandal with a kidney illness prediction app it developed using data from the Royal Free Hospital Trust. Patient consent wasn't sought, which the ICO subsequently deemed broke data protection laws

Featured Resources

Digital Risk Report 2020

A global view into the impact of digital transformation on risk and security management

Download now

6 ways your business could suffer if you don’t backup Office 365

Office 365 makes it easy to lose valuable data regularly, unpredictably, unintentionally, and for good

Download now

Get the best out of your workforce

7 steps to unleashing their true potential with robotic process automation

Download now

8 digital best practices for IT professionals

Don't leave anything to chance when going digital

Download now
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/mobile/28299/how-to-use-chromecast-without-wi-fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

5 Feb 2020
Visit/operating-systems/27717/how-to-fix-a-stuck-windows-10-update
operating systems

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

12 Feb 2020
Visit/security/34616/the-top-ten-password-cracking-techniques-used-by-hackers
Security

The top ten password-cracking techniques used by hackers

10 Feb 2020
Visit/software/linux/354831/microsoft-to-add-defender-antivirus-software-to-linux-ios-and-android
Linux

Microsoft to add Defender antivirus software to Linux, iOS and Android

21 Feb 2020