The move will allow insurers to more efficiently serve the public and pharmaceutical companies to better target their life-saving new drugs…because surely those are the only reasons why those industries would pay to access vast troves of personal medical data. The Guardian reports:
Drug and insurance companies will from later this year be able to buy information on patients – including mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits – once a single English database of medical data covering the entire population (harvested from GP and hospital records) has been created.
Privacy experts warn there will be no way for the public to work out who has their medical records or to what use their data will be put. The extracted information will contain NHS numbers, date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender.
Once live, organisations such as universities – but also insurers and drug companies – will be able to apply to gain access to the database, called care.data.
Information will be scrubbed of some personal identifiers but not enough to make the information completely anonymous – a process known as “pseudonymisation”.
The centre’s public assurance director told the Guardian there was a “small risk” certain patients could be “re-identified” because insurers, pharmaceutical groups and other health sector companies had their own medical data that could be matched against the “pseudonymised” records.