NICE publishes standards for procuring NHS tech

The first draft framework of its kind aims to get NHS commissioners asking the right questions from vendors

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has drafted a framework of new standards for commissioning technology within the NHS in a bid to get healthcare commissioners asking the right questions when buying IT. 

The non-departmental commissioning body has also welcomed further feedback from tech firm and investors that it will cycle into the framework so that commissioning managers are better informed when procuring technology from vendors.

The 29-page 'Evidence Standards Framework for Digital Health Technologies' sets out comprehensive guidance on the specific questions commissioners should ask, as well as the levels of risk associated with implementing new tech that should be considered.

The guidance also classifies digital health technologies into several brackets, ranging from Tier 1, services with no demonstrable patient benefit (such as systems that improve efficiency), to Tier 3b, technology with demonstrable patient benefit.

These 3b technologies may include diagnostic tools, that make better use of data to diagnose conditions, or analytical tools that can perform clinical calculations much faster, for example, early warning system software.

"We've seen a lot of innovations that have come out on the market over recent years, and a lot of them have been really good, and some of them not so good," said NHS England's clinical lead Dr Indra Joshi.

"But what we've really struggled over the last few years is to define a standard of how we actually measure what good looks like. So we worked across lots of companies and primarily with NICE to say, how can we actually define these evidence standards?"

The guidance, which was developed in conjunction with NHS England and NHS Digital, as well as members of the tech industry, is also divided into two broad categories.

The first section handles evidence for how effective a particular technology or service will be in a healthcare setting, while the second will be comprised of economic impact assessments, or the value-for-money, in procuring new technology.

"What we want to know is what to advise innovators as to what type of evidence they have to generate in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of their tool and the positive economic impact of their technology," added NICE's director of evidence resources Alexia Tonnel.

The NICE framework follows similar guidance released by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) earlier this year which sets out a code of conduct for technology usage within the healthcare system.

The departmental guidance, which has been considered as part of NICE's framework, provides clarification for what is expected from suppliers and provides the basis for suppliers to enter into partnerships with healthcare providers.

NICE has opened up its draft framework for feedback from vendors, innovators and healthcare workers in the form of a short survey which will remain open until 7 January 2019.

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