As another eventful year in the world of digital health comes to a close, it is NHS England’s awarding of the Federated Data Platform to Palantir that sparked the most debate and coverage.

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look back at Digital Health’s most popular stories from the past year.

10. NHS England’s digital chief Tim Ferris to leave in September

Just making it into the top 10 is a significant departure announced back in May, as director of transformation Dr Tim Ferris was confirmed to be leaving NHS England in September.

Dr Vin Diwakar, then medical director for secondary care and transformation, took on the role first as an interim appointment and then on a permanent basis.

NHS CEO Amanda Pritchard praised Ferris’ achievements: “Tim has been instrumental in ensuring we maintain the pace of innovation seen during the pandemic, in particular using data to improve health and reduce inequalities.”

9. Public open to virtual care, but lack of understanding could block progress

August saw new analysis from independent health charity the Health Foundation, which suggested that the UK public is on balance supportive of virtual wards, but a lack of understanding of the term may be holding back public support for them.

A survey commissioned from Censuswide by the Health Foundation found that 45% of the public are supportive of virtual wards, with around a third of those surveyed either “not very” or “not at all” supportive – and there were no significant differences in this pattern across the four UK nations.

However, when asked if they would be happy to monitor their own health at home instead of in a hospital – describing a similar type of scenario but avoiding the term virtual ward – a more positive picture emerged: 78% of the public said they would be happy to do this, whereas only 13% would not.

8. NHS England awards £330m Federated Data Platform contract to Palantir

Here we go then, enter the NHS England Federated Data Platform being awarded to Palantir story. NHSE finally awarded the contract to operate its future FDP project, worth £330 million, to US data analytics giant Palantir, with support from Accenture, PwC, NECS and Carnall Farrar towards the end of November.

The official announcement dragged on, and on, and on, but the result was as we all expected with Palantir widely seen as the favourite to win throughout the procurement ahead of rival bidders including Oracle and IBM.

The contract award will see investment over the course of seven years as more trusts join the platform, the NHS confirmed. In the first contract year, investment is expected to be at least £25.6m. Over the contractual period of seven years, there will be up to £330m investment in the Federated Data Platform and associated services.

7. Shares in Babylon fall sharply on news of moves to take private

Another key story this year was the demise of Babylon. The first story on this that made it into our top 10 focuses on shares in the company falling sharply following news that it was being taken private as part of a new debt plan.

Shares, which had stood at $6.88 (£5.45) on the Tuesday, fell to $2.17 (£1.72) by lunchtime the next day. Babylon Holdings Limited announced a new funding agreement with Albacore Capital LLP, to provide up to $34.5m (£27.3m) in interim funding to offer liquidity to support Babylon’s ongoing operations.

As part of a longer-term funding plan, that includes restructure of Babylon’s debt, it is envisaged that Babylon will return to private ownership, we reported at the time. More to come on this one.

6. Guy’s and St Thomas’ delays £450m EPR go live to ensure safety

This year we saw what felt like more electronic patient record (EPR) go-lives in the NHS than ever before, with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s implementation of its new £450 million Epic EPR in October one of the most notable.

However it didn’t come without its challenges. Guy’s and St Thomas’ initially delayed the launch of the EPR to allow more time to roll out the system safely. The trust made the decision to postpone the launch after beginning to transfer data from its old IT systems to Epic as part of the preparatory work.

5. Google Research and DeepMind develop AI medical chatbot

Moving into our top five now and this one is from all the way back in January. Google Research and DeepMind collaborated to develop a large language model for the medical community, which could generate safe and helpful answers using datasets covering professional medical exams, research and consumer queries.

The AI-powered chatbot, MedPaLM, combines HealthSearchQA, a free-response dataset of medical questions found online developed by Google and DeepMind, with six existing open-question answering datasets.

The six other datasets come from MedQA, MedMCQA, PubMedQA, LiveQA, MedicationQA and MMLU. MedPaLM addresses multiple-choice questions and answers posed by both medical professionals and non-professionals.

4. NHS England sets out seven short-term digital priorities

Our fourth most read news story of 2023 is NHS England informing NHS trusts and ICBs of its list of seven short-term digital priorities, all focused on secondary care and elective recovery, with an eye firmly on the next General Election.

The so-called 6+1 priorities, issued in June with minimal advance notice or consultation, cover strictly short-term objectives that NHS England rather improbably says can be deployed a light speed, some in a matter of months, before the next General Election, expected in autumn 2024.

3. Babylon looks to sell UK business amid bankruptcy fears

Into our top three now and we return to the fall of Babylon as promised earlier. In August it was confirmed that Babylon Health was looking to sell its UK business, including its 100,000 patient NHS GP practice, and may fall into administration.

The firm announced that a $34.5m attempt to restructure and return to private ownership fell through and that it is now “exploring strategic alternatives in order to find the best outcome for its UK business”, which includes the possibility of selling off the UK business.

Babylon said in a statement that it “cannot provide assurance that it will be able to secure sufficient liquidity to fund the operations of the Group’s business”.

2. NHS England awards £25 million contract to Palantir to transition to FDP

No prizes here for guessing what company scoops the top two spots this year – that’s right, Palantir. At number two is our story from June where NHSE awarded a new 12-month contract worth £25 million to Palantir to “transition” its current projects with the health service to the new FDP supplier.

The new Palantir Foundry Transition & Exit contract, which was announced on a government contracts site, had a start date of June 12.

It is designed to “provide the smooth transition and exit service of critical products that were developed to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic (for Covid-19 and elective recovery purposes), to alternative provisions including the transition of products to the new FDP-AS supplier following completion of the procurement process and award to the FDP-AS supplier,” according to the description on the contracts site

1. Palantir to be named as winner of Federated Data Platform

And finally, we reach our most read news story of the year, Palantir and the FDP of course. Digital Health News were first to report that Palantir had been named as winner of the FDP procurement.

We understood at the time that the decision on the award of the FDP procurement had been signed off by ministers and would be publicly announced within a matter of days. However days passed by, and no other outlet reported it.

But of course we were accurate and simply ahead of the curve with the official announcement coming around a week and a half later. It was always going to be Palantir after all.