The integration of health and social care in Scotland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, has been long talked about but scarcely accomplished in any real sense.

However, recent developments in technology, organisation, and policy, are all moving integration from the realm of the conceptual to the realistic.

The Scottish Government’s recent refresh of its Digital Strategy put a stronger focus on digital inclusion, to ensure that in our push to digitise we don’t overlook or leave anyone behind. Accompanying the refresh was an update on the new NHS Data Strategy, which is expected before the end of 2022.

Commenting on the direction of the Data Strategy, the Scottish Government’s Interim Director for Digital Health and Social Care, Jonathan Cameron, said: “It is important that health and care services are integrated and built on people-centred, safe, secure and ethical digital foundations.

“This allows staff to record, access and share relevant data across the health and social care system; encouraging them to feel confident in their use of digital technology in order to improve the delivery of care.”

Scottish Government blogs indicate progress between the Digital Health and Care Data Strategy Working Group and the Health and Social Care Strategic Portfolio Board, whose role is focused on making key decisions required to deliver interoperability and information sharing across Scotland’s health and social care services.

Delivering an integrated, digitised health and care service requires the right technology choices and availability.

The arrival of cloud based, pre-configured electronic patient record (EPR) systems extend the possibilities for joined up records, all the way from NHS trusts to those providers in the voluntary, charitable, and private sectors.

Previously, for any organisation smaller than an NHS trust, EPR systems were prohibitively expensive to purchase, manage and maintain. Now, cloud computing offers an EPR model that all organisations can benefit from.

Across our varied care services, for children, young people and adults, electronic record usage is supporting organisations to provide safe, secure, and professional services.

These developments should facilitate greater uptake of electronic records and should help enable integration.

There will still be challenges. For example, large areas of health and care are not yet using electronic records. Funding, guidance, accessibility, and other forms of support may be needed to accelerate adoption to the levels required. There are a variety of different electronic record systems in use, so finding a way to achieve interoperability between health and care systems will be vital.

Collaboration and coordination between systems, the providers of those systems and the organisations that use them, will be crucial to making integration possible.

At The Access Group, we have brought together some of those most widely used systems – and the people behind them – from across health, care and local government. Collective effort is now being taken to make data interoperability and system integration a reality.

To support our mission to deliver integrated care systems, we recently acquired Servelec, provider of care software solutions including Rio EPR, Mosaic social care case management and Synergy education case management.

We’re also joined by Elemental, an award-winning digital social prescribing platform, and Alcuris, who bring together internet-of-things, wearables and data aggregation to give local authorities and care providers the tools and information they need to move to a proactive, preventative approach.

These three innovative technology providers join our existing health and social care software team, which already includes market leading software, to deliver, manage and improve health and social care services, for NHS, private providers and local authorities alike.

We believe we’ve combined best of breed solutions to support the future of integrated care. Technology isn’t the only thing we need to get right in the interoperability puzzle, but it’s one very important piece.