The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care has announced it will introduce a new code of conduct for artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the NHS.
The code, designed to guarantee the NHS only uses the “best and safest” new technology systems, will cover AI and other data-driven technologies. It was drawn up with the input of industry professionals, academic bodies and patient groups with the aim of setting a “gold standard” for the protection of patient data, development of new healthcare technologies and providing the best range of choice for health and care providers.
Valentin Tablan, SVP for Ieso Digital Health, which provides online cognitive behavioural therapy on behalf of the NHS and is developing AI technology to help diagnosis and treatment of patients, 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.”
The primary purposes of the new code of conduct include:
- Promoting the UK as a good place to invest in healthcare technology;
- Demonstrating good practice for industry and commissioners;
- Reassuring patients and healthcare providers of the safety and security of data-driven technology in the NHS;
- Promoting collaboration between the government and technology suppliers to influence the development of new technologies to be NHS-friendly; and
- Ensuring the NHS receives “a fair deal” from the commercialisation of its data collection and retention resources.
AI is already in use in a number of NHS sectors, including technologies which can detect and diagnose heart disease and cancer; match patients to suitable clinical trials; support care planning for patients with complex needs; and prevent unnecessary operations due to false positive diagnoses.
Tablan added: “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.”