eHealth is defined as the use of information, computers and telecommunications (ICT) to meet the needs of individuals and improve the health of citizens. It covers the electronic information recorded and shared between individuals and healthcare providers, peer-to-peer communication between individuals and/or healthcare professionals, and organisation-to-organisation transmission and sharing of information. eHealth is also the overarching term that encompasses other disciplines such as Telehealth and Telecare, Telemedicine, Digital Health, Mobile Health and Health Informatics. The term eHealth has been retained for the purposes of this document. However, it is important to note that the strategic direction in Scotland is towards the provision of integrated health and social care, and this will be reflected in the future development of eHealth. Associated with this will be a shift in focus from the internal needs of NHSScotland towards joint requirements with local government and third sector partners, and, in particular, two-way electronic communication and information sharing with citizens and patients.
The 2011-2017 eHealth Strategy included a commitment to undertake a review and refresh of that document in 2014, including the identification of new deliverables. This document is the refreshed 2011 - 2017 Strategy. Whilst there is clear continuity between the two documents, this document has been renamed the eHealth Strategy 2014-2017 in order to avoid any confusion.
2.2 Document Purpose and Role
Healthcare and eHealth are delivered across Scotland by the 14 geographic NHS Boards, the six special NHS Boards and two public bodies (NHS National Services Scotland and Healthcare Improvement Scotland). Increasingly they work in partnership with local authorities and the third sector, in particular through the Health and Social Care Partnerships.
This document is a national eHealth Strategy for Scotland and its primary purpose, therefore, is to set a national direction through a common vision and set of key aims. The Strategy will be delivered through an appropriate mix of national, regional and local initiatives and developments that should be appropriate to the circumstances of individual NHS Boards. However, the Strategy also has a role to help ensure that wherever possible unnecessary duplication and variation are avoided, and to highlight that patient pathways often transcend organisational divisions and NHS Board boundaries, which requires interoperability of systems to enable sharing of information. Current and future developments should contribute to coherent longer term outcomes that are person-centred, benefit patients and clinicians, and provide value for money. In summary this document is intended to:
- provide a brief overview of the context for eHealth, the current circumstances in Scotland and the key challenges and opportunities;
- describe the high level aims for eHealth over the short (3 years to 2017) and medium (6 years to 2020) terms with some cognisance of possible developments beyond these periods;
- set out a high level programme of activities and developments, including governance and working arrangements, for how eHealth in Scotland will be taken forward.
This refreshed eHealth Strategy has been developed through consultation with stakeholders and work with key governance groups, in particular the eHealth Leads Group, the national Clinical Change Leadership Group (CCLG), and the eHealth Strategy Board. As such, it is a strategy that has been agreed with NHSScotland. It is not a top-down mandated set of tasks, but an agreed direction and set of goals. The primary audience is intended to be clinicians, senior managers, including Chief Executives and Chairs, and eHealth staff, but it is expected that the eHealth Strategy will be of interest to those organisations working directly in partnership with NHS Boards, the wider public sector and suppliers, and, not least, the public.
The eHealth Strategy and the separate eHealth Finance Strategy are the formal responsibility of the Head of eHealth Strategy and Policy within Scottish Government who will ensure they are subject to regular review and update. This will be facilitated through the development of a series of thematic papers on key strategic topics, which will form the basis for ongoing national debate about the current and future strategic direction, will identify interim deliverables, and ultimately will inform a new eHealth Strategy. However, delivery of the eHealth Strategy is a joint responsibility of the Scottish Government, the NHS Boards and other partners, both public and private.
Individual NHSScotland organisations will continue to have their own local eHealth delivery plans which will reflect national priorities and developments in the context of their own local circumstances, and the national Technical Strategies will be updated to reflect this eHealth Strategy.
Email: Alan Milbourne