Royal Colleges, charities and patient groups form new coalition for AI, data and digital

Royal Colleges, UK medical charities, patient groups and industry representatives are collaborating to launch a new patient coalition for health technology.

Called the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health, the partnership features prominent members from the charity sector, such as the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, and Parkinson’s UK, as well as the Patients Association, Patient Safety Learning, the Royal College of Pathologists and the Royal College of Radiologists.

The aim of the alliance is to ‘ensure patient interests are at the heart of digital health policies’ and help inform the decision-making process, amid concerns that due to the rapid adoption of health tech, patient perspectives or voices may be ‘lost’.

Citing the recent controversy around General Practice Data for Planning and Research, as an example, the coalition has released a set of objectives and a list of issues to tackle.

The issues include: health inequalities and prioritisation of access to digital health; sharing best patient-centric practice in digital health; and making sure patient perspectives are embedded in policy and government strategies.

Stated objectives, meanwhile, include: promoting understanding of the patient experience with digital health; ensuring patients receive support to access digital health tech, when needed; and informing policymakers on what good practice looks like.

Intending to provide both a ‘forum for discussion’ and act as an ‘independent campaigning coalition’ on joint pieces of work, its wider goal is to ‘cultivate the necessary policy conditions to enable the UK to capitalise on new digital health technologies to the benefit of patients and the NHS.’ The group also published its first report on digital health during the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier this year.

Among the policies it campaigns on will be equal access to digital health across the country, ensuring patients have choices about how they receive care, prioritising ‘digital assurance’ so patients feel confident when using products approved by the NHS, and the need for clear regulations when collecting, sharing and using patient data.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association and Chair of the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health, said: “We are delighted to be launching this vital new coalition particularly after such a challenging year. The reason why all these fantastic partners from across the health landscape have agreed to join this coalition is because we are all united by the common belief that more needs to be done to put patients at the heart of digital health. It really is an issue of collaboration and making sure that patients are consulted throughout the policymaking process and that their priorities and interests are at the core of policy decisions.”

Uday Bose, Country Managing Director and Head of Human Pharma at Boehringer Ingelheim UK & Ireland – which provides funding through sponsorship to the coalition, added: “This coalition is a fantastic example of a cross sector group bringing their diverse perspectives and experience to focus on the patient perspective in digital health. Our priority at Boehringer Ingelheim is and always has been patient centricity and we are very supportive, as a key member and sponsor of the coalition, of the ambition that digital health technology is shaped and developed together with the patient to ensure critical aspects of design, access and building confidence are considered.”