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Report Calls for Cultural Shift to Keep Trust in NHS Patient Data Use

Dominique Adams


medtech concept

A new report highlights the need for the NHS to adopt a radical culture change to ensure that it can deliver the benefits of patient data driven technologies while retaining public trust. 

Medtech is becoming an increasingly important component in the delivery of healthcare and, as the report highlights, there is great potential for the NHS to become a world leader in the use of patient data to develop and improve healthcare technology.

However, the report notes that there is an expectation from patients and the public for the NHS to appropriately keep control of that data.

The report, Our data-driven future in healthcare: people and partnership at the heart of health related technologies – has outlined a series of principles for the NHS and industry, including medical technology developers and regulators, to adopt so that they can utilise digital patient data more effectively.

The report says that these new principles will revolutionise healthcare and support life-saving research while protecting the rights, privacy and choices of patients and the public.

Based on five core themes, the principles propose that data-driven technologies should be designed and used for health and care in ways that:

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

Collaboration Across Multiple Stakeholders Needed

The report calls for action to be taken so the NHS can evolve into a system that learns from itself, feeding back digital information about patients and using technology to support, not replace, face-to-face healthcare.

It emphasises that the NHS must also share in the wider benefits of contributing patient data for these new technologies. The report calls for the development of robust evaluation mechanisms and an appropriate regulatory framework to guide the effective and safe deployment of these technologies.

Lionel Tarassenko, member of report steering group, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Head, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, said: “We’re already seeing digital technologies that empower patients to manage their own health, for example by monitoring their own condition at home. Technology will only evolve and get more sophisticated to have a bigger impact on healthcare in the NHS in the next ten years.

“If we’re going to reap the benefits of these advances, we must act now. We need to see a widespread increase in digital health literacy throughout the NHS, with the full involvement of patients and the public. We also need to think carefully how we regulate and evaluate digital health products, especially when they include artificial intelligence, so that healthcare professionals and patients know that they are safe and reliable, and improve patient outcomes.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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