The Government has published a code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology, following a consultation on the issue.

Commenting on the issues involved, it said: “We have some truly remarkable data-driven innovations, apps, clinical decision support tools supported by intelligent algorithms, and the widespread adoption of electronic health records. In parallel, we are seeing advancements in technology and in particular artificial intelligence techniques.

“Combining these developments with data-sharing across the NHS has the potential to improve diagnosis, treatment, experience of care, efficiency of the system and overall outcomes for the people at the heart of the NHS, public health and the wider health and care system…

“Our responsibility as an internationally trusted health and care system is to use all the tools at our disposal to improve the quality and safety of care, including data-driven technologies, in a safe, ethical, evidenced and transparent way. For this reason, we have developed our 10 principles in a code of conduct to enable the development and adoption of safe, ethical and effective data-driven health and care technologies.”

The code of conduct sets out the behaviours the Government expects from those developing, deploying and using data-driven technologies in the health and care systems:

  1. Understand users, their needs and the context;
  2. Define the outcome and how the technology will contribute to it;
  3. Use data that is in line with appropriate guidelines for the purpose for which it is being used;
  4. Be fair, transparent and accountable about what data is being used;
  5. Make use of open standards;
  6. Be transparent about the limitations of the data used and algorithms deployed;
  7. 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;
  8. Generate evidence of effectiveness for the intended use and value for money;
  9. Make security integral to the design; and
  10. Define the commercial strategy and consider only entering into commercial terms in which the benefits of the partnerships between technology companies and health and care providers are shared fairly.

Valentin Tablan, SVP for Ieso Digital Health, said: “The NHS has been moving towards the use of emerging technology, such as AI and robotics, for quite some time now. This code of conduct will help the NHS and its partners adhere to the highest standards and be held accountable by patients and the Government.

“In particular, Principle 6, which focuses on transparency of the limitations of data, is key to the success of AI-enabled healthcare. AI is only as good as the data it is given, and therefore we must do everything in our power to ensure that when developing these algorithms, they aren’t based on biased data.

“Instead, we must ensure data is gathered from a wide range of demographics. This is particularly important when it comes to treating mental health conditions, given the various nuances.

“AI can help us transition into an era of preventive and personalised psychological care. However, it is important that technology only “enhances” clinical care and doesn’t replace the essential skills that human clinicians have and use to treat patients. The role of AI should be to process data and supplement human delivered care, rather than replace it.

“Treating patients using technology allows us to securely and safely collect information about how they respond to therapy. Thanks to advances in AI, machine learning and data science techniques, this can now be used to guide and train therapists, and ultimately improve patient care.”