A healthy relationship with tech
As a massive hypochondriac, Google is both my best friend and worst enemy.
I’ve self-diagnosed myself with so many ailments over the course of my life that if they were all true my real diagnosis would be ‘medical miracle’.
This is one area where talking to a real life doctor probably has my best cyber mate, Web MD, beaten.
Last week the relationship between healthcare and technology became even rockier when the NHS was exposed to a global cyber breach. The ‘WannaCry’ attack crippled IT systems in 99 countries and has been dubbed one of the biggest ransomware outbreaks in history.
It would be fair to say that chaos ensued within our already overburdened healthcare system, with operations being cancelled and doctors pulling extra shifts while the systems were being fixed.
One of my friends is a nurse and she told me that she still writes up all of her notes as well as putting them into the computer system because she doesn’t trust tech.
While that’s an absolutely mad thing to do in terms of the extra work, the hack shows that her mistrust isn’t completely unfounded.
It’s been a pretty rough week for the NHS as they’ve also been criticised by the head of the Department of Health's National Data Guardian (NDG) for striking a deal with Google’s DeepMind to share patient data.
Information from 1.6 million patients was given to the artificial intelligence company so that it could test Streams – an app that helps identify people that could be at risk of acute kidney disease.
Technology can clearly be a massive string to healthcare’s bow and as a hypochondriac the news that the NHS is tech-ing up is fantastic.
Even in the case of my nurse friend, the reality is that her notes are no safer in a cardboard box in her office, where the risk of thieves and natural disasters is still very real, than they are in the cloud.
But as someone who wants their important information to be as safe as possible, I don’t think we can afford to be so blasé about data yet.
Google said the information DeepMind received was covered by ‘implied consent’ which doesn’t really cut it.
Implied consent means that we as patients of the NHS might expect our data to be used in this way, which we probably wouldn’t because there isn’t enough transparency around tech yet – or enough safeguards.
I’m going to try and cut down on Googling the symptoms of throat cancer every time I have a sore throat. Instead I’ll put that time to good use and continue to educate myself on data privacy and security, and ask that companies do too.
If you want to join me in doing the same then take it from someone who has lots of experience in hypochondria – a healthy relationship with tech is something actually worth getting worked up about.