UK government launches code for digital health technology

The UK government has launched a new code of conduct for data-driven health technology, which it hopes will help the NHS make the most of opportunities created, while ensuring responsible stewardship of information.

Published this week by the Department of Health and Social Care, the initial code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology recognises the impact artificial intelligence techniques could have on healthcare.

The government said the technology could develop insights and tools that may improve efficiency in the NHS, through innovations such as decision support tools.

But the technology relies on use of data, and the government and NHS have strong duties to ensure the data is secure and protects patients’ rights and identities, so the public has trust in the new technology and the NHS as an organisation.

The code clarifies expectations from suppliers of the technology, and how the government will support innovators in health and care, including development of trusted approval systems and a coherent pathway for suppliers to enter the market.

Although the code is voluntary, the government is asking for organisations to sign up to it to demonstrate their commitment to best practice.

The government is also conducting a formal review of regulations and assessing commercial models used in technology partnerships.

Goals of the code include building a “safe ecosystem” for digital health and intelligent algorithms, demonstrating that there are appropriate safeguards, raising standards by establishing best practice and ensuring companies show evidence of transparency and accountability.

The code also aims to create a competitive advantage for the NHS and UK health care market, and build partnerships with health and care providers, patients, service users, staff, industry and academia.

The code has been launched following the separate Data Ethics Framework, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which guides design of appropriate data use in the government and wider public sector.

Earlier this year the government’s life sciences tsar Sir John Bell said artificial intelligence (AI) could save the NHS billions by cutting costs in areas such as breast cancer screening.



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