A new coalition formed from members from Royal Colleges, health charities and patient groups, is working to ensure the interests of patients are a key focus in the deployment of policy surrounding digital health technology.

The Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health is the first of its kind to champion the patient perspective by bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders.

Its formation is particularly timely. Recently we saw the General Practice Data for Planning and Research be postponed, due to concerns over whether patients had been given enough time to consider the changes to how their data is used.

Similarly, the government’s data strategy – Data Saves Lives: Reshaping health and social care with data – which aims to give patients more control over their health, also came under fire from patient groups as campaigners were quick to call for NHS patients to be put ahead of the demands for profit.

The newly formed coalition is aiming to ensure these kind of mistakes don’t happen again – particular as the adoption of digital health technology accelerates at pace.

It is formed of:

  • Asthma UK
  • Boehringer Ingelheim
  • British Lung Foundation
  • British Heart Foundation
  • Diabetes UK
  • Fight for Sight
  • Parkinson’s UK
  • Patient Information Forum
  • Patient Safety Learning
  • The Patients Association
  • Royal College of Pathologists
  • Royal College of Radiologists
  • Stroke Association

United by common belief

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association and chair of the Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health, said: “We are delighted to be launching this vital new coalition particularly after such a challenging year.

“The reason why all these fantastic partners from across the health landscape have agreed to join this coalition is because we are all united by the common belief that more needs to be done to put patients at the heart of digital health. It really is an issue of collaboration and making sure that patients are consulted throughout the policymaking process and that their priorities and interests are at the core of policy decisions.”

The coalition will act as an independent campaigning coalition, actively engaging to help influence Government and NHS policies. Its overarching goal is to ensure patient interests are at the heart of digital health tech policy.

Putting patients at the heart of the agenda

Coalition members have committed to tackling issues like:

  • Examining health inequalities and calling for the prioritisation of access to digital health.
  • Sharing best patient-centric practice in digital health
  • Ensuring the patient perspective is embedded in policy and government strategies.

Uday Bose, country managing director and head of human pharma at coalition member Boehringer Ingelheim UK and Ireland, added: “This coalition is a fantastic example of a cross sector group bringing their diverse perspectives and experience to focus on the patient perspective in digital health.

“Our priority at Boehringer Ingelheim is and always has been patient centricity and we are very supportive, as a key member and sponsor of the coalition, of the ambition that digital health technology is shaped and developed together with the patient to ensure critical aspects of design, access and building confidence are considered.”

The coalition’s first report into lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic concluded that the UK must build on progress made to digitise the NHS, while drawing on best practice examples that helped facilitate service improvements, such as virtual self-referral and clinician communication support.