Digital health and care strategy: enabling, connecting and empowering
A refreshed strategy is available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotlands-digital-health-care-strategy/ (October 2021).
The people of Scotland expect technology and information systems to be part of how health and care services are delivered, and for that to be a seamless and almost invisible part of the process. They are enthused and excited about how the sector could embrace the opportunity to make people's experience and use of services more straightforward and interactive, in the same way as banking, shopping and travel. They talk about the potential for digital technology to change the way that services are delivered for the better. However, when we ask about real-life experiences of technology and information systems in health and care people tell us stories. And those stories are often not good stories. They are stories about how information about a person being treated in Kilmarnock is not available because their records are in Fife. Or that a person with multiple complex problems often has to repeat the same information again and again to different people, as every organisation and professional works with a different system, and a different record. Front-line staff also tell us they have to log on to multiple systems to do their job, and that they feel as though they are there to support the information system and not the other way around. People are frustrated, confused and disappointed and we need to do better. We know that digital technology should be one of the key enablers, rather than a barrier, to delivering excellent care.
The issue is not whether digital technology has a role to play in addressing the challenges we face in health and care, and in improving health and wellbeing: the issue is that it must be central, integral and underpin the necessary transformational change in services in order to improve outcomes for citizens. Over the next decade digital services will become not only the first point of contact with health and care services for many people, but also how they will choose to engage with health and care services on an on- going basis.
This strategy is therefore about how care for people in Scotland can be enhanced and transformed through the use of digital technology. It is not specific to individual specialisms, groups or organisations: it encompasses the whole range of health, social care and wellbeing services commissioned and provided by Health Boards, by Integration Authorities and by Local Authorities and their third and independent sector partners. Importantly, it extends as well to informal care, self-care, prevention and public health.
This strategy also recognises that there is a real opportunity for researchers and businesses in Scotland to be at the forefront of what is one of the fastest growing fields in global healthcare delivery, and places innovation at the heart of how we will work.
We are grateful to the many individuals, groups and organisations that have engaged in the process that has been undertaken to delivery this strategy, and who have told us about what they think of digital technology and its use in health and care services. We have benefited significantly from the advice of an External Expert Panel and welcome the Health and Sport Committee's thorough and insightful report.
This strategy is bold, ambitious and enterprising and presents a once in a life time opportunity to create a digital and interoperable health and social care system, supporting improvement in the safety, effectiveness, efficiency and citizen-centred nature of the services we offer.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport
Cllr Peter Johnston
COSLA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care
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