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Strategy sets priorities for digital in healthcare diagnostics


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has set out four priorities for the digital transformation of diagnostics in healthcare.

It is part of the new Medical Technology Strategy, which sets out a broad approach for the further development of safe and effective medical devices to help manage patient care.

Digital technology to support diagnostics comes within the focus on specific markets for medtech, and cites the potential for new technologies such as AI to support pathology and imaging in healthcare.

The four priorities for the area include working on the maturity of the pathology network and providing an enhanced digital infrastructure to support up to 160 community diagnostic centres by March 2025.

Second is to increase public awareness of how technology can be used in self-administered testing, aimed at helping them receive treatment when there is a better chance of achieving a complete cure.

Third is engagement with the industry to encourage innovation in the sector; and fourth to use the legacy of investment during Covid-19 to ensure preparedness for any future pandemic.

Data drawback

The strategy also includes an emphasis on data collection and management, which it says is currently purpose led, with a range of databases and registries maintained by different organisations, rather than approached holistically. This means there is no single data standard, making it is difficult to cross-reference data from different sources at a national scale and resulting in lower data quality.

It says there is a need for more proactive data collection and to improve standards and linkages, with the aim of building a medtech data system over time.

Other focus areas of the strategy are on ensuring resilience and continuity of supply, promoting innovative and dynamic markets, and enabling infrastructure.

Key aims include boosting the supply of the best equipment, encouraging research, increasing the understanding of medtech among clinicians, and improving collaboration between the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

An implementation plan is due to be published soon. DHSC said it will include a review of £1 billion spent on appliances in primary care, new comparison to support procurement, and collaboration with industry to ensure the availability of key products.

It will also involve the Medtech Directorate of DHSC setting up governance structures to be overseen by the director of medtech.

Innovative spirit

Minister of State for Health Will Quince said: “The UK’s innovative spirit delivered revolutionary technology during the pandemic - from Covid tests and ventilators - and we want to harness this in promoting cutting edge medical advancements to improve patient care.

“The NHS spends around £10 billion a year on medical technology and I’m looking forward to working with industry to use this as we focus on reducing hospital stays, enhancing diagnosis, preventing illness and freeing up staff time.

“This new medtech strategy will help build a sustainable NHS with patients at the centre so people can continue to access the right care at the right time.”

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