Trust takes time. But a data-driven digital healthcare system isn’t possible without it

Market Access
data-driven digital healthcare system

The NHS needs to find a way to put privacy first to build trust with the public around its innovation plans, explains Nigel Jones, co-founder of the Privacy Compliance Hub.

Another week, another data privacy controversy involving the NHS. This time, Open Democracy has alleged that hundreds of hospitals have been directed to share confidential medical records with Palantir Technologies. Trusts have reportedly been given until the end of March to upload pseudonymised patient data – including dates of birth, postcodes, and medical histories – to a new Palantir database called Faster Data Flows.

It comes after campaign groups acting on behalf of doctors and patients threatened legal action over NHS England’s procurement of another £480 million data platform, arguing that questions about data protection have not been answered.

A lack of trust

It’s often said the NHS is sitting on a goldmine of data, with medical records that cover the lifespans of 55 million people. But actually putting it to good use – to research and improve patient monitoring, and develop new treatments, for example – has been a real challenge. Health leaders talk about legacy technology systems, silos that aren’t easy to connect, and the millions of pounds of investment they feel they can’t afford.

Then there’s the public perception that this is a bad idea. There’s a lack of trust in government to deliver without corruption or cronyism when it comes to health; a lack of trust in the ability of technology companies to keep that data safe; and a lack of trust in organisations that are motivated by profit to not use that information for another, less altruistic, purpose.


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