NHS plans to share data, "leaks will inevitably happen"
England's National Health Service (NHS) is planning to share the medical records of 55 million individuals with third parties, in a move that is attracting strong criticism from digital rights campaigners.
Unless individuals opt out by June 23rd by informing their GP practice, their personal medical records will be shared from July 1st onwards.
NHS Digital has said it will not collect patients’ names, addresses or any data that could directly identify patients (such as NHS number, date of birth or full postcode). It will collect data about diagnoses, symptoms, test results, medications and allergies, including information about physical, mental and sexual health, and data on sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
The NHS Digital website states that the data will be used to research the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the population, analyse healthcare inequalities and develop new treatments for serious illnesses.
However digital rights campaigners have raised alarms that the NHS has not stated who they would be sharing the data with. Foxglove, an organisation formed by legal experts who previously helped launch a lawsuit against the UK Government over data sharing with private US corporation Palantir, have written to the Department of Health and Social Care, questioning the lawfulness of the plans under data protection laws and threatening legal action.
Monitor the data supply chain
David Sygula, Senior Cybersecurity Analyst at CybelAngel says that while this move from the NHS provides some strong benefits from an academic research standpoint, data collection on this scale is problematic. "[It creates] a new set of risks for individuals, where their Personal Health Information (PHI) is exposed to third-party data breaches.
"The extent of the unsecured database problem is growing. It's not simply an NHS issue, but the NHS' third, fourth or further removed parties too, and how they will ensure the data is securely handled by all suppliers involved. These security policies and processes absolutely need to be planned well in advance and details shared with both third parties and individuals."
Sygula adds that it must be assumed there will be data breaches. "Several mechanisms must be put in place, starting with the anonymisation of data, as data leaks will inevitably happen. Security researchers, attackers, and rogue states have all put in place processes to identify unsecured databases and will rapidly find leaked information.
"That's the default assumption we should start with. It's about making sure patients are not personally exposed in case of a breach, while setting up the appropriate monitoring tools to look for exposed data among the supply chain."
Jvion launches AI-powered map to tackle mental health crisis
Clinical AI company Jvion has launched an interactive map of the US that highlights areas that are most vulnerable to poor mental health.
The Behavioral Health Vulnerability Map uses Jvion's AI CORE™ software to analyse public data on social determinants of health (SDOH) and determine the vulnerability of every US Census block group.
Vulnerability refers to the likelihood that residents will experience issues like self-harm, suicide attempts or overdoses. The map also identifies the most influential social determinants in each region, to show the social and environmental conditions that contribute to mental illness.
As an example, the map shows that Harrison County in Mississippi has a 50% higher suicide rate than the rest of the state. It also shows a high percentage of individuals in the armed forces at a time when active duty suicides are at a six-year high, along with a high prevalence of coronary artery disease, arthritis, and COPD, all chronic illnesses that are linked to a higher suicide risk.
The map also shows Harrison County has a high percentage of Vietnamese Americans, who studies suggest have high rates of depression and may be less likely to seek help from mental health professionals.
The map was built using the same data and analytics that Jvion used to create the COVID Community Vulnerability Map, which was launched towards the start of the pandemic.
With this new map, Jvion is aiming to tackle the growing mental health crisis in the US. “At a time when so many Americans are struggling with their mental health, we’re proud to offer a tool that can help direct treatment resources to the communities that need it most,” said Dr John Showalter, MD, Jvion’s chief product officer, who led the development of the map.
“For too long, the healthcare industry has struggled to address social determinants of health, particularly in the context of behavioural health. Our hope is that by surfacing the social and environmental vulnerabilities of America’s communities, we can better coordinate our response to the underlying conditions that impact the health and wellbeing of people everywhere.”