A new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences has claimed that a radical culture change is needed to ensure that the NHS can deliver the benefits of new health technologies that use patient data for care, whilst retaining public trust.

The report outlines principles that must be adopted by the NHS and industry, including medical technology developers and regulators, so that patients can benefit from digital information about them being used in smarter ways to revolutionise healthcare and support life-saving research.

The principles will help provide safeguards to support patient data being used in ways that are fair, and will enable all NHS patients to benefit from the use of health technologies using patient data, the Academy said.

Health technologies that are becoming increasingly important include wearable devices, mobile phone apps and intelligent monitoring devices.

The report also highlighted areas in which patient data is already being used to develop health technologies, such as smart insulin pumps for diabetes, artificial intelligence assisted pregnancy ultrasound scans, and houses designed with smart technology to monitor and support dementia patients and their carers.

“We are already seeing digital technologies that empower patients to manage their own health, for example by monitoring their own condition at home. Technology will only evolve and get more sophisticated to have a bigger impact on healthcare in the NHS in the next ten years,” said Professor Lionel Tarassenko, professor of Electrical Engineering and head, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford.

“If we are going to reap the benefits of these advances, we must act now. We need to see a widespread increase in digital health literacy throughout the NHS, with the full involvement of patients and the public,” he stressed.

“We also need to think carefully how we regulate and evaluate digital health products, especially when they include artificial intelligence, so that healthcare professionals and patients know that they are safe and reliable, and improve patient outcomes.”

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, called on “the NHS, regulators, industry and other key stakeholders to work together to adopt the principles set out in this report to make sure that patient data is used in a fair, transparent, safe and effective way.”