Health and social care: data strategy

Scotland’s first data strategy for health and social care, setting out how we will work together in transforming the way that people access their own data to improve health and wellbeing; and how care is delivered through improvements to our systems.

Annex C – Glossary of terms

Anonymised Data

Anonymous data is data that does not relate to an identified or identifiable individual. This could include data that never included anything identifiable – for example, an anonymously filled in opinion survey. Anonymous data may be presented as general trends or statistics. Information about small groups or people with rare conditions could potentially allow someone to be identified and so would not be considered anonymous.

Source: ICO


A sequence of logical instructions for carrying out a task. In computing, algorithms are needed to design computer programs.

Source: BBC

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence is technology that enables a computer to think or act in a more ‘human’ way. It does this by taking in information from its surroundings, and deciding its response based on what it learns or senses.

Source: BBC

Application Programming Interface (API)

An API is a software which can be used by other software, to communicate with other software or hardware.

Caldicott Guardian

A senior person in an organisation responsible for protecting the confidentiality of patient and service user information and enabling appropriate information sharing by providing advice to professionals and staff.

Source: UKCGC

Data Accessibility

The extent to which people can use data available to them.


Determined by or dependent on the collection or analysis of data.

Data Point

An identifiable element in a data set.

Deep Learning

Deep learning is a type of machine learning that trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as recognising speech, identifying images, or making predictions.

Direct Care

A clinical, social, or public health activity concerned with the prevention, investigation and treatment of illness and the alleviation of suffering of individuals.


Consistent treatment of people in Scotland, empowering individual voices.

Source: Scottish Government

Health and Social Care

A term used to describe services that are available across health and social care in Scotland. It includes services provided by NHS, local authorities, third, and independent sectors.

Information Standards

An information standard is a document, produced by the Scottish Ministers, setting out how certain information is to be processed.

Source: Scottish Government


New ideas or methods.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) means the network of objects and devices that have embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.


The ability of organisations as well as software applications or devices from the same manufacturer or different manufacturers to interact towards mutually beneficial goals, involving the exchange of information and knowledge without changing the content of the data between these organisations, software applications or devices, through the processes they support.

Machine Learning

Machine learning uses algorithms to identify patterns within data, and those patterns are then used to create a data model that can make predictions. With increased data and experience, the results of machine learning are more accurate—much like how humans improve with more practice.

Source: Microsoft

Management Information

Management information is data that relates to business activity. Management information can be used to inform business needs, planning and decision-making. For example, information relating to NHS waiting times or availability of staff in care settings.

Protected Characteristics

Protected characteristics are specific aspects of a person’s identity defined by the Equality Act 2010. The ‘protection’ relates to protection from discrimination. Everyone in the UK is protected, whether they identify with a minority or majority expression of a characteristic.

Source: UK Government

Primary use of data

The processing of personal electronic health data for the provision of health services to assess, maintain or restore the state of health of the natural person to whom that data relates, including the prescription, dispensation and provision of medicinal products and medical devices, as well as for relevant social security, administrative or reimbursement services

Secondary use of data

The processing of electronic health data for purposes other than the direct delivery of care. For example, in producing management information to improve services.


A systematic approach to communication, arming individuals with meaningful information.

Source: Scottish Government

Trusted Research Environment.

Trusted Research Environments (TREs) are a secure space for researchers to access sensitive data. Commonly referred to as ‘data safe havens’, TREs are based on the idea that researchers should access and use data within a single secure environment.

Source: Understanding Patient Data

Unstructured Data

Data is said to be unstructured if it isn’t recorded in a pre-defined, organised way. An example in health and social care could be digitised PDF documents containing patient notes in free text.

Source: BBC



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