Google's DeepMind teams with UK hospital for eye disease research

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Google is setting its sights on helping find cures for eye disease through a partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The London-based health facility will donate about one million patients’ eye scans to Google’s artificial intelligence wing, DeepMind, for analysis, according to a BBC report. The scans will be anonymous.

In addition, Google will receive support from the Royal National Institute of Blind people and sight charities, including the Macular Society, the article added.

However, BBC noted concerns by some over data privacy protections.

"To be crystal clear, I have not consented for my personal data to be used by Moorfields NHS Trust for any purpose other than treating me for genuine medical purposes," tech journalist Gareth Corfield tweeted.

Similar privacy concerns were expressed in May when New Scientist reported that DeepMind had access to data for 1.6 million National Health Service patients across three hospitals.

That article noted privacy concerns would likely persist, considering the information included logs of daily hospital activities for individual patients, in addition to pathology and radiology results.

In response to those concerns, Royal Free London, in a Q&A on its website about its partnership, writes that it “provides DeepMind with NHS patient data in accordance with strict information governance rules and for the purpose of direct clinical care only.” In addition, the post states, patients can opt out of any data-sharing systems at any time.

"Our research with DeepMind has the potential to revolutionize the way professionals carry out eye tests and could lead to earlier detection and treatment of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration," Sir Peng Tee Khaw, director of the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital, told the BBC.

To learn more:
- here's the BBC report