UK experts chart framework for development and use of data-driven healthcare technologies

The UK's Academy of Medical Sciences published the research after a series of workshops and discussions with key stakeholders.
By Leontina Postelnicu
08:03 AM
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The UK's Academy of Medical Sciences has published a report outlining a set of principles to guide the development, evaluation and use of data-driven technologies in healthcare, through a project partly funded by a grant from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The new framework is based on a series of workshops involving patients, healthcare professionals, the broader public, and discussions with key stakeholder groups, including NHS regulators and digital health companies. It argues that data-driven technologies should be designed and used for health and care to:

  • Support clearly defined purposes upholding the social values of the NHS and benefiting the system, individuals or society
  • Respect and protect the privacy, rights and choices of patients and the public
  • Include them as active and meaningful partners
  • Maintain trustworthiness in the responsible and effective stewardship of patient data
  • Incorporate evaluation and regulation mechanisms to build understanding, confidence and trust in these technologies, and guide their deployment in the NHS.

To make this a reality, however, experts warn that improvements to the digital capabilities of the NHS, an integrated data infrastructure and a radical cultural shift are required, while further analysis is needed to understand their use in social care, given that the "experience of accessing and using social care data in the UK is very limited".

“The Academy report builds on what the patients and the public have told us matters most to them," said Professor Carol Dezateux, associate director of Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the national institute for data science in health, and one of the experts consulted for the project.

"By putting the public’s expectations at the centre of the use of data-driven technologies, the NHS, scientists, researchers and developers will be able to work together to deliver maximum health benefits for all, while keeping public trust," Professor Dezateux added.

A draft of the academy's report was shared with the Department of Health and Social Care during the preparation of the initial code of conduct for AI and other data-driven healthcare technologies released in September this year.

Meanwhile, NHS Digital announced today that it was joining a new initiative called the UK Health Data Research Alliance, along with HDR UK, aiming to "mobilise the UK's health data for science and innovation".

“This new alliance brings together the unique data assets across the NHS, and allows access to them by the research community in a safe, secure and ethical framework. From this will flow new treatments and insights which will transform outcomes for patients,” said health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy.

Twitter: @1Leontina
Contact the author: lpostelnicu@himss.org