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DHSC publishes code for AI and data in NHS


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has laid out 10 principles for the use AI and data driven tech in healthcare.

They form the core of its new code of conduct for the technologies, aimed at ensuring their developers are focused on protecting patient data.

Drawn up with the support of the industry, academics and patient groups, the code is aimed at making it easier for suppliers to develop technologies to treat conditions such as dementia, obesity and cancer, and to help health and care providers choose safe and effective solutions.

Most of the 10 principles focus on issues already familiar to the debate around developing technology and data for public services. They are:

  • Understand users, their needs and the context.

  • Define the outcome and how the technology will contribute to it.

  • Use data that is in line with appropriate guidelines for the purpose for which it is being used.

  • Be fair, transparent and accountable about what data is being used.

  • Make use of open standards.

  • Be transparent about the limitations of the data used.

  • Show what type of algorithm is being developed or deployed, the ethical examination of how the data is used, how its performance will be validated and how it will be integrated into health and care provision.

  • Generate evidence of effectiveness for the intended use and value for money.

  • Make security integral to the design.

  • Define the commercial strategy.

The document says that combining these with data sharing across the NHS has the potential to improve diagnosis, treatment, the experience of care, efficiency of the system and overall outcomes.

It makes the point that innovators in the field come from sectors that are not necessarily familiar with medical ethics and research regulations, which raises the risk of them inadvertently breaching NHS safeguards. The code is aimed at helping to stay within the framework, and to ensure the health service can get the best from allowing companies to access its data.

Updates to come

DHSC said the code will be regularly updated in partnership with industry and stakeholders to ensure it keeps pace with the market.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock commented: “We need to create an ecosystem of innovation to allow this type of technology to flourish in the NHS and support our incredible workforce to save lives, by equipping clinicians with the tools to provide personalised treatments.

“AI must be used responsibly and our code of conduct sets a gold standard set of rules to ensure patient data is always protected and the systems we use are some of the safest in the world.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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