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News | Published March 28 2020

Tech giants to support NHS in coronavirus effort

New measures are being taken in order to best predict where ventilators will be needed across the country.

The NHS’s 111 telephone service will be used to collect data and will be combined with other sources in order to establish how best to distribute the health service’s resources.

Amazon, Microsoft, Palantir and Faculty AI will also be called upon to help with the efforts.

Matt Hancock, health secretary, is expected to sign off on the plans in due course.

A source from one of the tech firms has said that: "Every hospital is going to be thinking: Have we got enough ventilators? Well we need to keep ours because who knows what's going to happen - and that might not be the optimal allocation of ventilators.

"Without a holistic understanding of how many we've got, where they are, who can use them, who is trained, where do we actually have patients who need them most urgently, we risk not making the optimal decisions."

However, the model raises considerable concerns surround the privacy of individuals.

The NHS have assured critics that the information used will be anonymised to ensure that any personal information cannot be linked to a specific individual.

When the crisis has been resolved, the health service have promised to destroy all records.

The source noted that: "In the UK, you might be looking at things such as diagnostic results from tests, maybe 111 calls or people going online.

"In the short term, it is going to be more about situational awareness - where there may be emerging pressure.

"But then over time this will turn into more dynamic scenario planning. So you're able to simulate and ask: What if we redeployed our resources here? What would be the likely impact?"

Privacy and civil liberties engineering lead for Palantir, Courtney Bowman said that: "Any exceptional measures must be clearly justified by the facts and conditions of the moment but, also, in enacting them, build in mechanisms for rolling them back after the crisis and soberly evaluating the extent to which they were necessary and how we can do better next time."


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Authored by

Alice Jaspars
Culture Editor
@
March 28 2020

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