04 Mar 2021

The public expect the NHS to get a return on their data

Guest blog by David Morris, Health Services Sector Leader, PwC UK

Technology has the power to drive a revolution in health and care outcomes. COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of technological change but much more can be done to deliver truly innovative transformation.

At PwC for the last 12 months we have been conducting in depth research into the future of technology in the NHS. We have assessed structural barriers and explored changes that would be required to deliver on the opportunities technology presents for patients and the NHS workforce. In TechUK’s recently published Ten Point Plan for healthtech to accelerate the digitisation of the health and care sector we welcome the recommendation to put the power into the hands of the public by improving citizens’ access to their own data - because this will enable them to make data-driven and informed decisions about their own care.

In our own recent report we set out how partnerships with technology and innovation companies can define digital transformation across healthcare. In a world built increasingly on collaboration, connections that reach across the globe and into every sphere of our lives, our healthcare institutions should also be connected – with each other and with patients – so that they can share learning, innovation and information.

Our polling prior to the pandemic showed that 65% of the public are willing to share their data with technology companies if it benefits the NHS – and this data sharing will be the bedrock of partnerships across the healthcare system. People’s willingness to put their data forward (appropriately anonymised) for the greater good of the NHS reveals that the UK has a strong foundation on which to build public trust in technology partnerships.

While it’s right that data protection is taken seriously, it is important that this conversation doesn’t drown out discussions around value, outcomes, and other risks and benefits. COVID-19 has stimulated the conversation around data sharing and helped prompt clear guidance on what is permissible from a data governance perspective. From an NHS perspective some of that value is clear – access to rigorous R&D and disruptive technologies; access to a disruptive working environment and culture, and access to capabilities and talent.

For technology companies, partnership with the NHS provides a gateway to the overwhelming majority of the UK population who use its services, access to a market of £20bn worth of business and a sales pitch to use elsewhere in the world. The patient’s role in providing the raw material for this value should not be underestimated. NHS bodies should use this asset wisely by treading a fine line – avoiding guarding it so closely that it’s impossible to release its value (the data equivalent of keeping a windfall under the mattress rather than investing it), but equally by being transparent about the value – financial and in terms of health outcomes – that comes from it.

We found that people expect the NHS to get a return on their data – but that the majority are open minded about the nature of that return: whether the value comes back financially to be reinvested into the health service; as part of research into treatments; or to improve efficiency. Whatever form value takes, co-designing value with the public and partners will be essential to building and maintaining trust.

To find out more about our research, read Tech powered healthcare: A strategic approach to implementing technology in health and care.

Tom Russell

Tom Russell

Programme Manager, Health and Social Care, techUK

Tom is responsible for leading our engagement with a range of NHS and industry stakeholders including NHS Digital, NHSX, DHSC and NHS England/ Improvement.

At techUK he leads our health tech focused working groups on interoperability and User Centred Design and jointly manages the Social Care working group. He also has responsibility for the elected Health and Social Care Council and sits on the Professional Records Standards Body Advisory Board.

Prior to joining techUK, Tom worked for a public policy events company delivering a digital health exhibition and previously to that in a Governmental affairs role for a pharmaceutical company.

He has lived in Germany, France, Switzerland and Egypt and read International Politics at King’s College London.

In his leisure time he enjoys boxing, cycling and swimming. He completed a solo English Channel swim in 2009.

[email protected]
020 7331 2030

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