Why the NHS’s new Code of Conduct for data-driven health tech is necessary

The National Health Service in England has published a new code of conduct for the use of digital technology in health and care.

The code of conduct contains ten principles that set out what the NHS expects from suppliers and users of data-driven technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).

It says the aim is to make it easier for suppliers to understand what the NHS needs from them, and to help health and care providers choose safe, effective, secure technology to improve the services they provide.

The ten principles set out in the code should foster innovation and tech company engagement with the NHS, while also ensuring patient data is kept secure and protected from abuse.

As a company that provides data-driven technology to healthcare providers and practitioners, we think this is a welcome and timely intervention.

Phil Groom, commercial director of Bond Digital Health, said: “I think a code of conduct is necessary to ensure the use of data-driven technology in the health system meets the needs of patients and practitioners while being safe and ethical. I’m sure it will be widely supported as long as it is used appropriately and not used to stifle innovation.”

Commercial interest in the NHS’s vast collection of unique data sets has grown in recent years, so it is no surprise the NHS wants to capitalise on that. The code acknowledges that this must be done responsibly.

It says: “If we do not think about issues such as transparency, accountability, liability, explicability, fairness, justice and bias, it is also possible that the increasing use of data-driven technologies, including AI, within the health and care system, could cause unintended harm.”

Phil Groom has spoken about the value of data in health at events across the world, including at the Advanced Lateral Flow Course in San Diego last year.

He added:

“Data is the new oil, but it is only valuable if it's refined. Recent advances in science and technology mean vast amounts of patient data are being generated on a daily basis, and you need artificial intelligence and machine learning to cope with it and make sense of it.

“Private companies are already collecting patient data and using it commercially and profiting hugely from doing so. If the NHS can use AI to collect and analyse patient data and use it to benefit the NHS without compromising patients then that has to be seen as a good thing.

“Ultimately it will increase knowledge and understanding and help with planning services, allocating resources and making more effective health interventions. The data has to be anonymised, the system has to be secure and patients have to have confidence that their data will not be misused.”

Phil Groom is commercial director of Bond Digital Health

Bond's secure app and cloud technology can be used by health providers and practitioners to collect and manage valuable data. For further information about all our products and services, please get in touch.