Healthcare is facing one of the most critical times in history. With an unprecedented demand on staff, equipment and hospital capacity; we are seeing a national effort to help limit the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The NHS is having to change the way healthcare professionals interact with patients and is looking to technology to help power their services.

On 27 February, NHSX launched the draft NHS Digital Health Technology Standard, bringing together existing standards – including the DAQs and other data and interoperability standards – in a consistent, transparent and accessible way. The aim was, and still is, to support developers to understand what is expected of them and speed up how health technologies are reviewed, commissioned and scaled across the NHS and social care.

As their engagement partner, we planned a range of activities to get feedback from relevant stakeholders to ensure it was fit for purpose. However, with current priorities changing to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, it isn’t realistic to expect a good balance of attendees at the workshops and we took the decision to cancel them. But we still need this valuable feedback.

Digital health technologies are more important now than ever, as the NHS looks to developers for effective and secure telemedicine, remote monitoring tools, information sharing apps, AI analytics, and communication tools for healthcare professionals.

We are seeing an emergence of established and new tools to support the NHS: NHS Digital fast-tracked assurance of video products on the new Digital Care Services Framework, the use of Microsoft Teams surged by 800% across the NHS to support remote working, and Hospify became the first clinical messaging app to be made available on the NHS Apps Library, leading to a surge in demand.  We have no doubt that there is a whole host of apps, tools and services being developed that could support healthcare professionals and the public and we want to help speed up and streamline the process to getting commissioned.

Ensuring that your technology complies with the standard is the first step to achieving that and we need to ensure it is accessible and understood by its users. We are looking for input from a wide range of audiences, such as clinicians, commissioners, developers and patients, to ensure it is robust and ambitious while being attainable.

So, while attention may be elsewhere and our day-to-day looks very different to what we expected a couple of months ago, we want as many people as possible to fill in our survey so we can find out if it is appropriate, if anything is missing, and the challenges and benefits of applying the standard.

The draft standard has 10 components with a rationale for why developers need to comply with it, and links to all relevant guidance needed to support applications. We have already heard from a number of you and are using this feedback to continue to develop the standard.

While it is positive to see that the majority of you believe it is clear what the standard is for and that the terms are easily understood, some of the thoughts being raised include:

  • Clarity over what is best practice vs compulsory
  • Confirmation of the type of digital health tools it applies to 
  • How this applies to companies at different stages of their life cycle
  • Specific standards that you believe should be included
  • Timelines for accreditation
  • What support will be provided

We want to hear from you about your specific experience – whether you’re a developer with the ideal solution for the NHS, a clinician on the frontline, or a public health body with experience existing standards.

You can take a look at the draft standard here and we would be grateful if those interested in digital health could complete this short survey before 22 April 2020.