22 March 2014

UK health data sales

UK civil society advocate MedConfidential notes emerging information in that country about the sale of bulk (and weakly deidentified) health data, highlighted here and here.

It for example points to a Sunday Times report last week that began -
A billion NHS records containing details of patients’ hospital admissions and operations have been sold to a marketing consultancy working for some of the world’s biggest drug companies, The Sunday Times can reveal.
Harvey Walsh, a healthcare intelligence company, has paid for a database that, although stripped of names and addresses, does include the age, postcode district, medical condition and place of treatment for every patient who has received hospital care in England.
The database handed over by health officials covers 125m “episodes” of hospital treatments each year, with details of every patient admission, A&E attendance and outpatient appointment.
Harvey Walsh says it already has 10 years of data and can “track” the treatments that individual patients receive over their lifetime. It said yesterday the data helped pharmaceutical companies to drive improved patient care.
The head of the Medical Research Council, Professor Sir John Savill, is reported as stating that NHS data sharing would be seen as a “no brainer” by patients if the government explained the scheme properly.

Savill thus
insisted only “consent fetishists” could object to the Care.data scheme. ...
“It could turn the UK into the best clinical laboratory in the world and the benefit would be felt first in the UK. This could modify the game in wellness investigation and healthcare. The act of learning de-identified information in a safe haven without having specific consent does not to my thoughts threaten confidentiality."
Only “consent fetishists” could truly object to plans to share patient data which could radically improve the NHS, according to the head of the Medical Research Council. ...
Sir John, who oversees £767 million in public research funding, also warned that planned EU data protection laws would cost lives by making vital research all but impossible. He said that 2.2 million people, one in 30 Britons, were enrolled in a type of medical research study which could become impractical