Posted on November 29, 2018 by staff

NHS needs ‘radical’ change to reap health tech benefits


Health technologies that use patient data could revolutionise healthcare but a cultural shift is needed in the NHS and across the health data and medical technology community.

That is according to a new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences published today.

The report outlines principles that must be adopted by the NHS and industry, including medical technology developers and regulators, so that patients can benefit from digital information about them being used in smarter, more joined-up ways.

It also highlights the potential of the NHS to become a world leader in the use of patient data for technologies to improve healthcare if it adopts the outlined principles.

Health technologies that are becoming increasingly important include wearable devices, mobile phone apps and intelligent monitoring devices.

Smart insulin pumps for diabetes, artificial intelligence assisted pregnancy ultrasound scans, and houses designed with smart technology to monitor and support dementia patients and their carers, are examples in the report where patient data are already being used to develop health technologies.

“This report is based on high-quality, in depth conversations with members of the public, hospital doctors, GPs and nurses,” said Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

“We are calling for the NHS, regulators, industry and other key stakeholders to work together to adopt the principles set out in this report to make sure that patient data is used in a fair, transparent, safe and effective way.”

A steering group of 12 experts, including leading clinical, biomedical and social scientists, legal, ethical and technology specialists, oversaw the development of the principles.

Workshops were held in Cardiff, Sheffield and London, involving around 100 people from a wide range of backgrounds, some with long- and short-term mental and physical health conditions, and healthcare professionals including GPs, nurses, paramedics and hospital consultants.

A follow-up meeting gave an opportunity for the NHS, regulators, funders, policy makers, data and medical technology companies and the pharmaceutical industry to contribute their views.

Dr Kambiz Boomla, GP in Tower Hamlets and clinical senior lecturer in the Clinical Effectiveness Group at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The National Health Service gives us the opportunity to join up all the information about patients wherever they are seen.

“Imagine a future where an appointment didn’t start with repeating your medical history and medications because your health care professional has all that information up-to-date and accessible to them.”

Dr Boomla added: “My patients don’t want to be told ‘the robot will see you now’: they want to see a human.

“However they understand that new technologies can allow patients and their carers to manage their own health better and free up clinician time for direct care. That is the future they want us to deliver.”

Professor Lionel Tarassenko CBE FREng FMedSci, professor of electrical engineering and head of the Department of Engineering science at University of Oxford, said: “If we are going to reap the benefits of these advances, we must act now. We need to see a widespread increase in digital health literacy throughout the NHS, with the full involvement of patients and the public.

“We also need to think carefully how we regulate and evaluate digital health products, especially when they include artificial intelligence, so that healthcare professionals and patients know that they are safe and reliable, and improve patient outcomes.”

The report is entitled: Our data-driven future in healthcare: people and partnership at the heart of health related technologies.