NHS Digital signs deal to deliver newpatient de-identification solution  

NHS Digital has signed a contract to deliver a new software solution for the de-identification of patient information, which will help to improve the way that data is used across the NHS and social care. De-identification is the process used to prevent a person’s identity from being connected with their information.

The new de-identification process (known as De-ID) will protect patient privacy by de-identifying a person’s records in a consistent way. This will mean that when the right legal basis, controls and safeguards are in place, data can be linked across different care settings and geographic boundaries. This will help to improve health and care services through research and planning, and ultimately lead to better individual care.

NHS Digital will deliver De-ID in partnership with privacy engineering company Privitar, who were chosen following a rigorous tendering process.

NHS Digital’s Executive Director of Data, Insights and Statistics Tom Denwood said: “The health and care landscape is rapidly changing, and we can improve individual patient care if our systems can deliver a complete picture of their health and care. Although we already use various ways of de-identifying dataacross the NHS, the difference with De-ID is that it provides one, consistent way of doing this.

“So instead of each individual NHS team managing their own de-identification processes, De-ID provides an automated and standardised way of removing the identifying values in a patient record across all data collections, allowing data to be linked across different care settings.

“It’s not only more efficient; enabling us to safely produce useful data for research and analysis, but it’s also transparent, so we can improve tracking and auditing of how data is used across the system.

“After a rigorous tender process, we chose to work with Privitar because of their commercial and industry experience, as well as their strong, ethical values. We’re very much looking forward to together leading the protection of patient data.”

CEO of Privitar Jason du Preez said: “Privitar specialises in privacy engineering software that enables organisations to provide data for advanced analytics and data science with respect for individual privacy and compliance with regulation.

“Our business was born out of a realisation that the effective use of data can improve our lives in so many ways, but that this must be done with rigor and respect for individuals to ensure a sustained, high-quality flow of information into the data ecosystem.”

Privitar licenses software products that employ leading privacy enhancing techniques. It does not handle or process any personal data as part of its client work.