Scotland has a new digital health and social care strategy that sets out how technology can support person-centred care, and sustain and improve services for the future.

Announced by Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison at FutureScot’s Health and Social Care Digital Leaders’ Summit today, 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.

The new strategy 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 front-line staff.

An independent panel of world-leading UK and international experts was also established to make recommendations to inform the development of the strategy, and was chaired by the acclaimed Professor David Bates of Harvard School of Public Health.

The strategy has also been informed by the evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, which reported earlier this year on technology and innovation in health and social care.

Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, said that the new strategy offered a vision and level of ambition that would position Scotland as a world leader. “From the outset, we have aimed to be inclusive and collaborative, drawing upon the wide range of experience, expertise, and perspectives available.

“The new strategy represents a real opportunity to build on achievements to date and maximise the opportunities for digital for the future, supporting the more preventative, person-centred care that we want to see.”

Chair of the external expert panel, Professor David Bates MD MSc, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Business School, whose report is also published today, welcomed the new strategy. “Scotland is already an international leader in integrating health and social care services and is well positioned to seize the opportunities offered by digital.

“It has already seen a number of key successes in specific areas. Our panel was impressed by the commitment of those tasked with developing and improving Scotland’s health and care services through the use of technology.

“The challenge now will be to build on these specific areas and ensure that digital technology and data science become mainstream in health and social care to reshape equip services for the future and further empower those using the services.

“The new digital health and care strategy for Scotland is a key element in achieving that success, setting out the key priorities and objectives for this shared endeavour. I urge all those with an interest in positioning Scotland as a digital leader to get involved.”

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.

“Scotland is already a world leader, for example, in diabetes care where analysing anonymised data has helped reduce blindness, heart disease and amputations,” he said. “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.”

A dedicated website explains the strategy’s approach, supported by case study examples, blogs and video, and stakeholders are asked to follow the Twitter feed @DigiCare4Scot for further information and to keep up to date with developments.

The strategy sets out six key areas 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.