Innovation, News

UK Gov updates good practice guide for digital health tech

The Department of Health and Social Care has updated its guidance on ‘good practice for digital and data-driven technologies’, with ‘strengthened and expanded’ practical advice.

As of 6 January 2021, the government has published its latest code of conduct to support ‘innovators’ in the digital healthcare technology sector. The advice is intended to ‘smooth the path between development and procurement so that the NHS may realise the benefits that digital technologies can bring’.

The guide – entitled ‘A guide to good practice for digital and data-driven health technologies’ – is an update to previous the ‘Code of Conduct for Data-Driven Health and Care Technologies’.

Amends made include updates to reflect real-world changes, such as Brexit and the creation of a Centre for Improving Data Collaboration, as well as the checking of links.

It also claims to have now provided specific areas – such as technical assurance, clinical safety, and regulation – with expanded guidance, as well as designating them their own chapters.

In the introduction, an emphasis is placed on NHS England’s Long Term Plan to move towards ‘widespread digitally-enabled care’. While the Secretary of State’s Technology Vision for ‘more digital services to be designed around user need’ and the key principles of ‘privacy, security, interoperability and inclusion’ are also front and centre.

The document goes on to cover 12 chapters, with literature covering:

  • How to operate ethically
  • Have a clear value proposition
  • Usability and accessibility
  • Technical assurance
  • Clinical safety
  • Data protection
  • Data transparency
  • Cybersecurity
  • Regulation
  • Interoperability and open standards
  • Generate evidence that the product achieves clinical, social, economic or behavioural benefits
  • Define the commercial strategy.

Although the good practice guide is open and available for public consumption, it is targeted at ‘innovators’ from sectors outside the healthcare system, to educate about professional and ethical standards, research regulation and the safeguards in place to protect data.

The updated guidelines are timely and come after a year in which great strides were made by the NHS in adopting, at speed, a host of new or existing technologies to help in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

With examples stretching from the NHS embracing paper-lite projects, through to the addition of 42 new AI projects with the NHS AI Lab, digital and data-driven healthcare looks set to dominate discussion yet again throughout 2021.

To make sure you keep up to date on the latest guidance, and to find the publication in full, visit