New simpler and faster assessment process for digital health technologies launched for the NHS and social care

NHSX has today unveiled a new simpler and faster assessment process to help give staff, patients and the public confidence that the digital health tools they use meet NHS standards. The new Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) is a rapid process that can be completed in days.

With thousands of health apps and digital technologies available, NHSX’s new assessment criteria will equip local and national NHS and social care teams with the guidance they need to decide which health technologies they should be buying or recommending to patients.

The tool will apply to all types of digital health technologies, from public facing health apps to digital systems used within hospitals such as electronic patient records.

All parts of the NHS, from hospitals to CCGs to national bodies, and social care will be encouraged to use the DTAC when they are looking at which digital health products they want to use.

The simple new guidance brings together legislation and best practice in five areas. Tools will receive a pass or fail in four categories - clinical safety, data protection, technical security and interoperability - and a score on usability and accessibility.

It will provide reassurance to staff, patients and citizens that the digital health tools they use meet national NHS standards.

It is already being used by trusts and systems as they procure products to provide video consultations in secondary care over the coming year; their chosen suppliers must be DTAC assessed if they are to qualify for national funding available to support embedding and spreading of video consultations in secondary care settings.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said:

“The new Digital Technology Assessment Criteria is designed to give staff, patients and citizens confidence that the digital health tools they use meet the NHS’s high standards.

“Digital health technologies are used throughout the NHS, and increasingly in social care, to improve patients’ experiences, increase access to services and reduce the burden on staff. The new assessment process will identify the digital tools that meet NHS standards on clinical safety, cyber security and data protection from amongst the thousands available in the market, and do it more quickly than before.”

Lord Bethell, Minister for Innovation, said:

“The new Digital Technology Assessment criteria will not only be easier for staff to use, but will provide the reassurance that all digital health tools from the NHS meet our high standards.

“These improvements are another example of innovation and our ambition to constantly strive for better technology to improve digital health.”

The new criteria will help innovators and developers understand the standards they need to meet to offer their products to the NHS, whilst offering a faster and simpler assessment process which can be completed in days.

NHSX is now working to ensure DTAC is used across the NHS and becomes the default criteria against which all digital health technologies that are being considered for use are assessed against.

The first version of DTAC published today reflects feedback received from over 800 stakeholders, after a draft version was published in October.

Rhod Joyce, deputy director of innovation development at NHSX, said:

“We want to support the adoption and scale of good, safe health technologies for those buying health tech within the system, which will ultimately help NHS patients across the country.

“Through DTAC we are clearly setting out from the very start the criteria innovators need to meet for their products to be used by the NHS.

“It will also empower local NHS and social care organisations to assure themselves that the tools they plan to use meet national standards.”

NHSX will be working over the coming months to ensure DTAC is embedded with local NHS organisations and in procurement frameworks so that anyone buying in new digital health products is first assessing it against DTAC.

DTAC has been designed to be used by any organisation that is buying or using digital health technologies. Nationally, NHSX will centrally assess a small number of products that are clinically recommended by the relevant NHS England and NHS Improvement clinical policy teams.

Tim Andrews, chief operating officer of ORCHA, said:

"It’s never been more vital for health professionals to know, with absolute certainty, that the apps they are using and recommending are of the required standard.

“The new DTAC sets out a clear, standards-based approach which allows hospital trusts and CCGs to take control. ORCHA is here to support the whole community – NHSX, developers, health and care providers and, ultimately, the citizens of this country."

Matt Elcock, founder and CTO of Push Doctor, said:

“Push Doctor is delighted to be working with NHSX to join the launch of the DTAC.

“The speed of innovation within Healthtech partners can be very rapid as we have seen through the pandemic so we see this as a vital route for bringing NHS patients innovative products quickly but also safely."

Dr D J Hamblin-Brown, director of CAREFUL Systems Limited, said:

“DTAC will provide us with a one-stop means to assure our clients within the NHS and social care that we have the highest standards of risk management and information governance.”

Teams within NHSX will continue to engage with innovators and the NHS around DTAC, which will likely change over time to reflect key changes in standards and legislation as they happen.