Earlier this month, the UK Department of Health and Social Care published an initial Code of Conduct for data-driven health and care technology. The code builds on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Data Ethics Framework.
The code encourages the United Kingdom’s health and care system to form partnerships with suppliers of data-driven technologies, in order to deliver improved health care and position the United Kingdom as a “great place to do business on technology”.
Four key group stakeholders are identified by the code: patients and citizens, health and care professionals, commissioners, and innovators. The code aims to meet the “most important need” for each of these groups, which consist of those experiencing improved care, those delivering better care, those providing services that better meet users’ needs, and those working to make the United Kingdom become a centre for innovation.
The code recognises a number of existing difficulties for health and care contracting, procurement and commissioning processes when it comes to embracing innovation. These include the existence of multiple regulators for products, a large number of health and care providers, and providers not being equipped to manage change. The code seeks to address these difficulties by setting out:
- 10 principles for suppliers of data-driven technology to follow; and
- five commitments from the UK government to facilitate the forming of partnerships with suppliers of data-driven technologies.
Principles and commitments
Two main themes run throughout the code’s principles and commitments. First, the code seeks to ensure that commercial arrangements benefit the health and care system just as much as they benefit the supplier. Second, data must be shared in a way that maintains public trust and confidence. In particular, individuals should feel “reassured that their data is being used for public good, fairly and equitably”.
The 10 principles spell out what suppliers of data-driven technologies should be doing in a partnership. This includes:
- showing what problem is being solved;
- demonstrating how the product will result in better outcomes;
- showing that privacy-by-design principles have been utilised;
- using only the minimum personal data necessary; and
- integrating appropriate levels of security to safeguard data.
The principles also encourage transparency. Suppliers should be clear about a technology’s strengths and limitations, and provide evidence of how effective the product is for its intended use.
In return, the UK government commits to supporting these partnerships by listening to stakeholders in an “open, honest and joined-up conversation with the widest possible audience”. The UK government will allow and encourage individuals to take a more active role in their own care by sharing their data. The government also commits to reviewing current regulation regarding data-driven technologies, and encouraging the health and care system to adopt innovation.
The code represents an exciting time for the British health and care system, paving the way for improved care through data-driven technology. It also demonstrates the government’s desire to attract the life sciences sector to the United Kingdom.
The code is currently in draft form. The department welcomes feedback and comments, which can be submitted online. The final version of the code will be published in December, and aims to be a “collaboratively agreed standard for technology partnerships”.