On 5 September, in response to the opportunities presented by data-driven innovations, apps, clinician decision support tools, electronic health care records and advances in technology such as artificial intelligence, the UK Government published a draft “Initial code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology” (Code) for consultation.  The Code is designed to be supplementary to the Data Ethics Framework, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 30 August, which guides appropriate data use in the public sector.  The Code demonstrates a willingness of the UK Government to support data sharing to take advantage of new technologies to improve outcomes for patients and accelerate medical breakthroughs, while balancing key privacy principles enshrined in the GDPR and emerging issues such as the validation and monitoring of algorithm-based technologies.  For parties considering data-driven digital health projects, the Code provides a framework to help conceptualise a commercial strategy before engaging with legal teams.

The Code contains:

  • a set of ten principles for safe and effective digital innovations; and
  • five commitments from Government to ensure the health and care system is ready and able to adopt new technologies at scale,

each of which are listed further below.

While the full text of the Code will be of interest to all those operating in the digital health space, the following points are of particular note:

  • the UK Government recognises the “immense promise” that data sharing has for improving the NHS and social care system as well as for developing new treatments and medical breakthroughs;
  • the UK Government is committed to the safe use of data to improve outcomes of patients;
  • the Code intends to provide the basis for the health and care system and suppliers of digital technology to enter into commercial terms in which the benefits of the partnerships between technology companies and health and care providers are shared fairly (see further below); and
  • given the need of artificial intelligence for large datasets to function, two key challenges arise: (i) these datasets must be defined and structured in accordance with interoperable standards, and (ii) from an ethical and legal standpoint, people must be able to trust that data is used appropriately, safely and securely as the benefits of data sharing rely upon public confidence in the appropriate and effective use of data.

The Code provides sets out a number of factors consider before engaging with legal teams to help define a commercial strategy for data-driven digital health project.  These factors include: considering the scope of the project, term, value, compliance obligations and responsibilities, IP, liability and risk allocation, transparency, management of potential bias in algorithms, the ability of the NHS to add value, and defining the respective roles of the parties (which will require thinking beyond traditional research collaboration models).

Considering how value is created and realised is a key aspect of any data-driven digital health project, the Code identifies a number of potential options: simple royalties, reduced payments for commercial products, equity shares in business, improved datasets – but there is also no simple of single answer.  Members of Covington’s digital health group have advised on numerous data-driven collaborations in the healthcare sector.  Covington recently advised UK healthcare technology company Sensyne Health plc on pioneering strategic research and data processing agreements with three NHS Trust partners. Financial returns generated by Sensyne Health are shared with its NHS Trust partners via equity ownership in Sensyne Health and a share of royalties (further details are available here).

The UK Government also intends to conduct a formal review of the regulatory framework and assessing the commercial models used in technology partnerships in order to address issues such as bias, transparency, liability and accountability.

The UK Government is currently consulting on the Code (a questionnaire on the Code is available here) and intends to publish a final version of the Code in December.


Continue Reading UK Government publishes “Initial code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology” for consultation

On 1 May, 2018 the Centre for Policy Studies (the “CPS”) published its latest paper on the UK’s National Health Service (the “NHS”) entitled “Powerful Patients, Paperless Systems: How New Technology Can Renew The NHS” (the “Paper”). The Paper advocates a “digital first NHS” that adopts a paperless system and enables patients to take full advantage of the continuing digitisation and integration of technology, often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (“4IR”).

To facilitate this change the Paper outlines three key targets that should be set by the Department of Health and Social Care, to be achieved by 2028:

  1. Move the NHS to a “digital first” platform and to aim to ensure that all interactions within the health service are digitally driven.
  2. Build an ecosystem of apps and innovation within and around the NHS, to improve patient service and control.
  3. Ensure that the savings made from automation and innovation are put back into frontline services and that budgets for staff R&D and technology training rise in line with overall NHS spending.


Continue Reading Summary of the CPS Paper on the Integration of Technology in the UK’s National Health Service

On the April 25, 2018 the European Commission (the “Commission”) adopted a plan of action to enable the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market (the “Communication”), intended to put EU citizens at the centre of the healthcare system.  This is to be achieved in three ways:

1. Citizens’ secure access to and sharing of health data

The Commission wishes to ensure that EU citizens should have secure access, anywhere in the EU, to a comprehensive electronic record of their health data. Citizens should remain in control of their health data (wherever it is located) and be able to share it securely with others for purposes chosen by those citizens, for example, medical treatment or research.

The Commission recommends the:

  • development and adoption of a “European electronic health record exchange format”, which would expand the existing eHealth digital services infrastructure; and
  • establishment of interoperable standards that would minimise barriers to cross-border transfer of health information and data within the EU and identify incentives for adopting the common format, and tackle practices that impede interoperability.


Continue Reading Summary of the European Commission’s eHealth Strategy

Digital Health

In the second of a three-part series, Covington’s global cross-practice Digital Health team considers some additional key questions that companies across the life sciences, technology, and communications industries should be asking as they seek to fit together the regulatory and commercial pieces of the complex digital health puzzle.

Key Commercial Questions When
Contracting for Digital

On August 30, the UK government published a report by Professor Sir John Bell of Oxford University providing a number of recommendations to government to ensure the long term success of the life sciences sector in the UK (Life Sciences Industry Strategy).  This blog post summarises the key recommendations and observations made from

Digital health solution providers, and users of digital health services, should take note of three recently launched EU public consultations in the digital health space, and may wish to make submissions to help shape the future of digital health initiatives in the EU.  The earliest deadline for submissions is 16 August 2017.

EU Commission

Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a final mark-up of legislation comprising the Committee’s counterpart to the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act.  The HELP Committee approved five bills including S. 2713 to advance the development of “precision medicine” through research and data sharing.  We have reported on the President’s precision medicine initiative in other posts available here
Continue Reading Senate HELP Committee Marks Up Precision Medicine, Other “Cures” Bills

In a 107-page report, released last week, the White House set forth its plan to create and manage a database containing 1 million or more Americans’ medical records in furtherance of the Precision Medicine Initiative. As announced by President Obama during his 2015 State of the Union Address, the Precision Medicine Initiative was launched “to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”

To achieve this goal, the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program (“PMI-CP”) will build a “research cohort” of at least 1 million volunteers, which will provide the “platform” for improved understanding and knowledge of precision medicine approaches. As explained in the report, “[p]recision medicine is an approach to disease treatment and prevention that seeks to maximize effectiveness by taking into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle.”
Continue Reading Report Outlines Plan for Precision Medicine Database

On April 29, 2015, members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee released a revised discussion draft of the 21st Century Cures Act (“Cures”). The draft bill includes a number of provisions intended to facilitate drug, biologic, and medical device discovery and development through greater collection and dissemination of data and the use of information technology. This posts discusses provisions of the “Discovery” title of the bill focused on expanding access to NIH research data (Subtitle F) and “facilitating collaborative research” (Subtitle G).
Continue Reading House Cures Draft Includes Provisions to Expand Access to Data, Facilitate Research