Streamlining digital health technology assessments

Lauren Harkins and Rhod Joyce

The way digital tools and apps are assessed for use by the NHS is changing, with the assessments moving to NHSX. We will build on the work by NHS Digital as part of the NHS Apps Library programme, and will take forward a more streamlined assessment model, to include all digital health technologies.

Listening to feedback

Earlier this year we held an open consultation on a proposed Digital Health Technology Standard. The feedback we had from innovators and other interested parties was that they wanted more tangible guidance,  a clearly defined question set against which to be assessed against, and clarity on whether it applied more broadly than patient facing apps.

We listened carefully to what stakeholders told us, and with this in mind, we have moved away from the proposed Digital Health Technology Standard, reframing this work with two clear deliverables that are applicable to all digital health technologies:

  1. The new Digital Technology Assessment Criteria, in beta (known as DTAC). This sets the baseline criteria for the assessment of digital health and social care technologies and is launched as a beta version.
  2. A new Guide to Good Practice for digital and data-driven health technologies, which will be published by the NHS AI Lab later in October.  This will set out best practice on what to do when developing digital health technologies.

Individually these will support digital health developers to design and deliver the best products for patients and the health and care system. Together they form the beginning of a broader support package which will also include a buyers’ guide to digital technologies, and evaluation resources for the health and care system.

Launching the DTAC in beta

We believe the DTAC sets a simpler, clearer baseline for digital health technologies to adhere to, enabling patients and the system to adopt relevant, safe and innovative technologies more quickly. This criteria intends to consolidate and replace existing baseline assessments such as the Digital Assessment Questionnaire (DAQ), rather than add a new one. By clearly setting this out up-front, we are supporting developers to build ‘tech by design’ rather than retrofitting.

The streamlined assessment criteria has 5 core areas:

  1. Clinical safety

  2. Data protection

  3. Technical assurance

  4. Interoperability

  5. Usability and accessibility

The DTAC will be in beta for the next three months, allowing us to work with developers and service providers, assessors and the wider digital health ecosystem to ensure that we are able to effectively support those innovators currently in the evaluation process, and iterate any smaller changes required as it develops. We have set out a roadmap to cover this period and we aim to develop it to ensure all stakeholders are clear with progress. 

Take a look at the DTAC in beta.

What does this mean for the NHS Apps Library?

The DTAC will be used for assessments including entry to the NHS Apps Library, and we will align procurement frameworks such as HSSF, increasing adoption through ‘passportable’ assessment, where the same criteria is used across health and social care nationally and locally. We will work with teams in NHS England and NHS Improvement such as diabetes and mental health teams, to use the DTAC as a baseline expectation for nationally supported products, identifying additional criteria that may be required for those areas, for example where additional legislation applies.

Over the coming weeks we'll  be in touch with all developers who have already met or are on their way to meeting the existing DAQ. 

For those developers who have already completed the seven technical sections of the existing DAQ we're committed to completing these assessments. We will be contacting those developers directly to put arrangements in place.

Re-opening assessments and future direction

We are committed to developing the NHS Apps Library over the coming months, and are working with stakeholders to better understand how we ensure national products such as NHS.UK can provide patients and commissioners with access to the best digital solutions which meet the DTAC.

We will run a series of open sessions on the DTAC beta version, including what it means to be assessed, to be an assessor, and how we are working to integrate  into procurement processes throughout autumn. Dates will be published on the NHSX twitter feed and in our digital transformation bulletin, which you can sign up for here.