Scotland’s new digital health and care strategy published

Digital technology must be central, integral and underpin the necessary transformational change in health and care services in order to improve outcomes for citizens, according to Scotland’s new Digital Health & Care Strategy.

The strategy sets out how technology can support person-centred care, and sustain and improve services for the future. It highlights progress and challenges to date, and sets out to maximise the opportunities of digital technology to help improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for people in Scotland.

Underpinning the strategy is the development of a national digital platform for Scotland, which will ensure all relevant information from patients’ health and care records is integrated and available. It will also be central to information capture and point-of-care access – with role-based, secure access – and includes specialist health and care information, as well as knowledge sources for staff and citizens.

“We will develop at a national level a digital platform that enables the appropriate creation and use of information at source and facilitates the interoperability of existing and new health and care technologies,” the strategy said. “This will be delivered through the development of a new architecture, the use of secure cloud-based services and the use of common shared international standards.”

The new strategy – read it in full here – has been developed over the past year, and its aims and priorities have been informed by widespread engagement with members of the public and health and social care frontline staff.


Six domains

The Digital Health and Care Strategy for Scotland sets out six key areas or ‘domains’ of work that will be prioritised in order to achieve the intended benefits of digital technology:

  • National direction– establishing a joint decision-making Board from national and local government and the NHS, supported and advised by industry, academia and the third sector to make national decisions for investment, priorities and policy, and achieve greater consistency, clarity and accountability.
  • Information governance, assurance and cyber security– ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place for the management of data and ensuring consistency in decision-making about sharing data and understanding about data protection requirements.
  • Service transformation– a clear, national approach to service redesign and the scaled up adoption of successful models such as home and mobile health and care monitoring.
  • Workforce capability– recognition that leadership and workforce development in digital skills and capability underpin successful uptake and use of digital technology, with the establishment of a joint approach between NHS Education for Scotland, the Local Government Digital Office (working with COSLA and Integrated Joint Boards) and the Scottish Social Services Council.
  • National digital platform– commitment to the interoperability of systems by developing a national Health and Social Care services digital platform through which real-time data and information from health and care records is available to those who need it, when they need it, wherever they are, in a secure and safe way.
  • Transition process– a recognition of the need to improve and upgrade existing systems to contribute to future developments, with a joint approach required between NHS National Services Scotland and the Local Government Digital Office to ensure that existing systems continue to work effectively.

A dedicated website explains the Strategy’s approach, supported by case study examples, blogs and video.

Professor Andrew Morris, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, and Vice Principal Data Science, University of Edinburgh, co-chaired the Strategic Oversight Group that developed the Strategy and its priorities. He said: “Scotland is already a world leader, for example, in diabetes care where analysing anonymised data has helped reduce blindness, heart disease and amputations. Digital technology with appropriate privacy structures in place can enable us to develop new treatments, and services that are personalised, precise, participatory, and preventative. Digital means we will be able to tailor health and care systems to deliver greater value to the public, with scrutiny and governance ensuring that any research we do is ethical and to the public good.”

All health and care organisations in Scotland will also have to formally adopt the Scottish Digital Service Standard as a bare minimum.

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