The independent London newspaper

Hospital hails deal with Google as app helps in care of pregnant woman

App detected problem with kidney function

06 March, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Afia Ahmed with baby Aleeza, husband Raquib and daughter Arifa

A FIVE-year-deal between global internet giant Google and the Royal Free Hospital has improved the care of a woman during her pregnancy and is saving doctors “a substantial amount of time” each day, clinicians have said.

The Hampstead NHS trust triggered outrage from data protection campaigners last year when it revealed it would be handing over more than one-and-a-half million patients’ medical records to Google’s artificial intelligence arm, DeepMind. The five-year deal was that DeepMind would design and trial a new health app on Royal Free wards.

The “Streams” app sends an alert to specialist clinicians in the hospitals when medical test data shows they are, or are at risk of, developing “acute kidney injury” (AKI). The hospital says the alerts are saving some doctors – 26 are using the app as part of the trial – two hours a day.

Renal consultant Chris Laing said: “One day this week, the app alerted us to 11 patients, ranging from a young cancer patient to an elderly patient suffering life-threatening dehydration, who were at risk of developing AKI. “These patients had a range of different conditions and without the app it would have taken our staff much longer to realise they were developing kidney problems.”

Afia Ahmed, 38, from Hampstead, suffered complications following the birth of her daughter Aleeza by emergency caesarean last month. The hospital said she developed sepsis – an infection in the blood – during her labour, which then led to AKI. The hospital said the Streams app detected a problem with her kidney function from blood test results and sent an alert to a specialist kidney doctor.

It can sometimes take doctors and nurses hours or days to get this information but now takes minutes, the hospital said. The kidney specialist was able to provide guidance to the obstetric team on Afia’s condition and advise them on adjustment of her antibiotics, intravenous fluid treatment and stopping pain-killers that might put a strain on her kidneys.

Ms Ahmed said: “It was great that a kidney doctor could be there to help with my treatment. I was really unwell so I didn’t know what was going on all the time, but it was good to know I had a range of different specialists taking care of me. I’m really pleased that I am now at home, enjoying my time with Aleeza.”

AKI affects one in six in-patients and is often an indication that a patient is deteriorating and needs specialist care. Streams will be expanded across the hospital and will alert clinicians about serious conditions, including sepsis and organ failure. The campaign group MedConfidential had raised concerns about whether Google could be trusted with Royal Free patient data.

When the deal was rubber-stamped in November last year, coordinator Phil Booth said: “Our concern is that Google gets data on every patient who has attended the hospital in the last 5 years and they’re getting a monthly report of data on every patient who was in the hospital, but may now have left, never to return.”



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