DeepMind Health Q&A

How did the partnership come about?

Pearse Keane, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, approached DeepMind to explore how its technologies could help to analyse scans to provide a better understanding of eye disease

What will the project involve?

Eye health professionals use scans of patients’ eyes to detect and diagnose serious conditions and diseases. Many thousands of eye scans are performed around the UK every day, both in hospital eye clinics and in the community. For example, more than 3,000 optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans are performed every week at Moorfields Eye Hospital alone.

OCT scans are highly complex and require specialised training for eye health professionals to analyse. As a result, there are often significant delays in how quickly patients can be seen by a health professional to discuss their diagnosis and treatment. To date, traditional computer analysis tools have been unable to solve this problem. 

This research project aims to investigate how machine learning technology could help to analyse these eye scans, giving eye care professionals a better and faster understanding of eye disease.

What is the project trying to achieve?

It is hoped that this research could lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses of eye conditions and diseases, so that eye health professionals can treat patients as early as possible.

How long will the project last?

The research project agreement is for five years, though either party can terminate early with 30 days’ notice. At the end of the agreement, DeepMind must destroy all copies of anonymised data received through the agreement.

How much data has DeepMind been given access to?

Over the course of the research project, Moorfields Eye Hospital will share approximately one million anonymised digital eye scans, used by eye health professionals to detect and diagnose eye conditions.  Anonymous clinical diagnoses, information on the treatment of eye diseases, the model of the machine used to acquire the images and demographic information on age (shown to be associated with eye disease) will also be shared during the course of the project. 

Do patients have to give their consent for their data to be used?

The data used in this research is not personally identifiable. When research is working with such data, which is anonymised, with no way of identifying individual patients, explicit consent from patients for their data to be used in this way is not required. (For more information please refer to the ICO code of conduct.)

As with all research collaboration agreements with non-NHS organisations, patients can opt out of any data-sharing system by emailing the trust’s data protection officer Patients will need their NHS or medical records number. Opting out of research applies to all research projects at Moorfields, not just the DeepMind collaboration.


In this case, all future research will take place excluding those who have opted out. As with all studies on anonymised datasets, measures will be adopted to render it impossible to identify any individual patients. It is therefore not possible to opt-out of research already underway for this reason.

What are the data protection measures in place for this project?

Moorfields Eye Hospital will rigorously ensure that no personally identifiable data is included in the database of scans which is provided to DeepMind for this project. During the course of the project DeepMind must take rigorous measures to protect the security of the data, and avoid disclosing it to anyone other than the researchers and engineers working on the project. Data contributing to this study can only be used for research that explores the use of machine learning to support clinicians in their management and diagnosis of eye diseases. The data itself cannot be linked with any other dataset, although any new models or software produced by the research may be linked to other datasets to allow for it to be used to help treat patients in the future, and also to enable further research to improve the models by drawing upon other approved sources of data.

Will any further patient information be shared between Moorfields and DeepMind in future?

DeepMind Health and Moorfields Eye Hospital are currently seeking approvals to allow the research to connect anonymous scans over time. This will allow further investigation of how eye diseases progress and the effects of treatment on eye conditions. As with research that is currently underway, all patient identifiable data will be removed before transfer.

How can patients be sure that no identifiable data is being shared with DeepMind?

Anonymisation procedures are thoroughly validated and formally approved by the Moorfields Eye Hospital information governance team before any data transfer to DeepMind takes place.

What processes are in place to ensure the data transferred to DeepMind is only ever seen by the research team?

A data custodian has been appointed by DeepMind to control access to the data. Only those who require access to conduct the research work will be granted access. All researchers who are involved in the study are required to complete Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and internal DeepMind information governance training before beginning research work.

What approvals has DeepMind been given for this research project?

DeepMind has been given permission for data access via a Research Collaboration Agreement with Moorfields Eye Hospital, and an approval to carry out research from the Moorfields Research & Development department through their Research On Anonymised Data (ROAD) approval pathway. 

Is DeepMind paying Moorfields for data transfers?

Where administrative or clinical time is spent on the research project by Moorfields staff, DeepMind ensures that this time is appropriately reimbursed to the trust. All payments received from DeepMind are to recover costs that have been incurred by Moorfields during the delivery of this collaborative research project.