Putting patients at the heart of DeepMind Health

From the outset, we’ve wanted DeepMind Health to be a truly collaborative effort. Too much hospital IT has been developed from a top-down perspective, often repurposing technology built for completely different sectors thousands of miles away from the NHS frontline. The result: tools that remain out-of-date and imperfectly suited to clinical use, contributing to a patient safety challenge where more than 1 in 10 patients suffer harm¹ during an in-patient stay.

We think it’s possible to transform this through bringing some of the world’s most advanced technology to the NHS. But for this to have any chance of meaningful impact, we know it must have the input of patients and clinicians at its heart.

Yesterday we took a step towards that goal by hosting our first open patient and public forum in London, with over 130 patients, carers and members of the public coming to our offices and many more watching on our livestream.

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Elaine Manna at DeepMind's first open patient and public forum in London

Patients have a vital role to play in helping to set our priorities and working with us to design new products and services. But we’re still learning how to get this right. There are many exceptional people with far more experience of patient involvement than we have, and yesterday’s event was a chance to meet some of them, explain what we’ve done so far, and ask their advice about what to do next.

We heard some valuable feedback about how we can make our work with patients accessible to a wider group, including holding events in other parts of the country and at times of the day when people at work can attend, and ensuring that people who are unable to travel can still have their say.

We also heard insights about some of the most important and complex long-term issues we need to address together. These included the need for new security models in healthcare that can protect data and inspire trust, for business models that are transparent and closely tied to outcomes that actually matter to patients, and for clinical uses of AI to use methods and outputs that are verifiable by patients and clinicians. None of these topics are easy, and so we’re committed to debating them openly and finding solutions together.

We were also excited to hear concrete recommendations for the tools and services we should build. We heard about the importance of including community care as well as hospitals, and of incorporating patients’ input about their conditions rather than only relying on data from clinical tests. We were glad for the opportunity to ask for some early feedback about how patients could have greater access to their own health data - an early concept, but one we’re looking forward to exploring further with patients in the months and years ahead.


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Mustafa Suleyman invites discussion with patients and the public

We’re very grateful to the patients and members of the public who gave up their time to join us, and who were so generous and candid with their feedback. We’ll continue to consult with patients over the next few months about how we can most meaningfully embed their contributions in everything we do, and will look forward to publishing our full patient engagement plan before the end of the year.

Many of our team grew up with the NHS, and we’re all hugely motivated by the opportunity to make a difference with DeepMind Health. Patient input and involvement will be right at the heart of this effort, both now and in the future.

References

  1. Vincent C, British Medical Journal