A Health and Biomedical Informatics Research Strategy for Scotland

This strategy sets out key areas for action and specific recommendations from the Health Informatics Research Advisory Group (HIRAG) on how Scotland should respond to the opportunities and challenges around the secure use of routinely collected patient data for research.


The power and efficiency of research using electronic health records is widely recognised. The opportunity to use technology to transform the quality, efficacy and delivery of healthcare has never been greater. Research can be a driver of this transformation by generating and reinvesting new knowledge into a "learning" healthcare system in a continuous, iterative process of enquiry and implementation to benefit patient care. Realising this potential is currently challenging, due to the need to commit significant resources to extract, quality check, and integrate data from disparate clinical information systems whilst at the same time, meeting the requirements of information governance to ensure that data are used and shared securely and in ways which are acceptable to data owners and data subjects.

Scotland now has both the opportunity and the obligation to capitalise further on its well established tradition of health informatics research and to attract a substantial share of the significant new investments now being made in health research capacity.

This Strategy sets out how that ambition should be achieved.

As the UK Data Forum[3] has emphasised, 'a thriving research community is one that is engaged with major new developments in data resources, ensuring that they meet current research needs and provide the opportunities for future research. The challenge is to ensure that these needs are met and that research opportunities are grasped.' This strategy seeks to address the challenge identified by the Forum, of effectively combining the essential elements of a physical research infrastructure, the technology and processes to facilitate access and to empower researchers with the appropriate skills and knowledge to use the data infrastructure.

I have been supported in developing this strategy by the Health Informatics Research Advisory Group, convened on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Chief Scientist Office. The Group's membership is listed in Annex A, and we thank them for their expert and generous contribution. We should also like to thank the many colleagues in the NHS, public representatives, Scottish Government and wider research community who have kindly supplied information or responded to our many queries.

I believe that if this Strategy is accepted and actioned, Scotland will not only maintain and enhance its international reputation in health informatics research, but also will aspire to be world leading in this field. Equally important, we will see the benefits of this technology flow through to better and safer patient care and additional health improvement dividends for the people of Scotland.

Sir Lewis Ritchie


Email: Pamela Linksted

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