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Working with the NHS to build lifesaving technology


Mustafa Suleyman

We’re very proud to announce a groundbreaking five year partnership with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Doctors and nurses in the NHS do a phenomenal job caring for patients, but they’re being badly let down by technology. Pagers, fax machines and paper records are still standard in most NHS hospitals, and too often top-down IT systems don’t meet clinical needs because they are built far away from the frontline of patient care.

This slow and outdated technology means that important changes in a patient’s condition often don’t get brought to the attention of the right clinician in time to prevent further serious illness. When this doesn’t happen, the consequences for patients can be severe, and even fatal. At least ten thousand people a year die in UK hospitals through entirely preventable causes, and some 40% of patients could avoid being admitted to intensive care, if the right clinician was able to take the right action sooner.

Our partnership aims to change that, by taking a very different approach to building IT for patient care. Together we are creating world-leading technology, in close collaboration with clinicians themselves, to ensure that the right patient information gets to the right clinicians at the right time, reducing preventable deaths and illnesses.

The five year partnership will build on the successful year-long joint project to build a smartphone app called Streams, which alerts clinical teams as soon as test results show that a patient is at risk of developing acute kidney injury (AKI) , providing them with the necessary contextual clinical information to help them to provide the right treatment before the patient’s condition deteriorates.

Following prototype testing, as well as registration with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), this first version of Streams is ready to be deployed to clinicians across the Royal Free hospital sites early in 2017.

Over the course of the next five years, we’re going to expand Streams to cover other illness where early intervention is key and technology can ensure this happens. We think that Streams could also be used to help patients at risk from sepsis and other causes of organ failure, where signs of deterioration are often difficult for clinicians to spot, and where early intervention can be the difference between life and death. We also plan to build additional features that Royal Free clinicians have asked for, including messaging and clinical task management that will support better care.

When it’s fully built, we believe that this will speed up the time to alert nurses and doctors to patients in need down from hours to a few seconds. And by freeing up clinicians’ time from juggling multiple pager, desktop-based and paper systems, it should redirect over half a million hours per year away from admin and towards direct patient care at the Royal Free alone.

The partnership will also introduce an unprecedented level of data security and audit. All data access is logged, and subject to review by the Royal Free as well as DeepMind Health’s nine Independent Reviewers. Our software and data centres will also undergo deep technical audits by experts commissioned by our Independent Reviewers.

A medical professional using the Streams app by a patient's bedside.

In addition, we’re developing an unprecedented new infrastructure that will enable ongoing audit by the Royal Free, allowing administrators to easily and continually verify exactly when, where, by whom and for what purpose patient information is accessed. This is being built by one of the world’s leading security engineers, Ben Laurie, co-founder of the OpenSSL project which enables encrypted connections to websites around the world (familiar to millions through the padlock in their browser bars).

And the infrastructure that powers Streams will be built on state-of-the-art interoperable standards, allowing the Royal Free to have other developers build new services that integrate more easily with their systems. This will dramatically reduce the barrier to entry for developers who want to build for the NHS, opening up a wave of innovation - including the potential for the first AI-enabled tools, whether developed by DeepMind or others.

DeepMind was set up to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges. It’s hard to think of a better way for us to make a real difference in the world than creating technology that will transform the NHS. We’ll update again on our progress with the Royal Free as soon as there’s more news to share.