Digital health and care strategy: enabling, connecting and empowering

A refreshed strategy is available at (October 2021).

National Digital Platform

Domain E

Our engagement highlighted the need for easy access to information at the point of care in a timely fashion. The Expert Panel highlighted the importance of being able to access and use information at the point of care, and went further in emphasising the need for this also to help drive and develop learning and knowledge.

We will begin work now to deliver a Scottish health and care 'national digital platform' through which relevant real-time data and information from health and care records, and the tools and services they use, is available to those who need it, when they need, wherever they are, in a secure and safe way.

We will develop at a national level a digital platform that enables the appropriate creation and use of information at source and facilitates the interoperability of existing and new health and care technologies. This will be delivered through the development of a new architecture, the use of secure cloud-based services and the use of common shared international standards.

'All healthcare providers would have a fuller picture of your health and social care needs'
– Respondent, Our Voice Citizen Panel

'We agree the best way forward for data sharing is through a single platform, or spine, for data that other systems connect into.'
– Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee report on technology and innovation in health and social care

The platform will allow for:

1. Information capture and access at point of contact – providing up-to-date high quality and timely role based, secure access to multiple specialist health and care information and knowledge sources, which is essential and fundamental to enabling excellent care, supporting staff, empowering citizens and enabling self-care.

2. Research and innovation to produce new products that can be made available through the platform – encouraging and opening up a broader ecosystem of development and suppliers, in particular from small and medium- size enterprises, which will support service improvement, service change and emerging consumer demand.

3. More appropriate use of information – putting in place the infrastructure and supporting improved processes for appropriate use of information for wider purposes, to ensure that health and care systems in Scotland are continuously learning. This is fundamental to supporting effective care, performance management, population health improvement, research and innovation, as well as the effectiveness of the new Public Health Body.

Each of these three elements is individually important, but also relies on each of the others for success. Only by creating and deploying information at the point of care can we improve interventions at the point of care or at a population level, and generate the knowledge, research and learning that will have the greatest impact. The platform will bring these together and make them possible.

'A more joined up approach, and to prevent having to repeat my story again and again if there are staff changes.'
– Respondent, Our Voice Citizen Panel

'Digital technology will transform healthcare delivery and outcomes with as much impact as the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics. It will enable the integration of health and social care in a way that will both improve peoples' health and accelerate economic growth.'
– Graeme Boyle, BioDundee Steering Group Member

1. To support excellent care at point of contact we will:

  • Deliver the digital capability for citizens to access and update information about their health and wellbeing, including their records and from personal monitoring, and to interact with services. This will build on work that is already starting to be taken forward on a Health and Social Care Services Portal and through developments such as NHS Inform.
  • Deliver the digital capability for health and social care professionals involved in the direct delivery of care – from clinicians to care workers – to be able to safely and securely access, update and share relevant information about the individual being cared for, wherever they are.
  • Adopt the Scottish approach to Service Design to ensure that the digital platform is co-designed with service users.
  • Expand the use of knowledge mobilisation and decision support tools and services to support frontline practice, self-management and shared decision making.
  • Establish and implement the standards required to deliver interoperability and information sharing across different health and care systems.
  • Develop the use of the Community Health Index to link health and social care information at a national level.
  • Develop the capability to use online triage (digital tools that direct people to the most appropriate service depending on their needs, including self service).

2. To support innovation and new products we will:

  • Review the current landscape of innovation policies and initiatives to identify areas of similarity, ensure alignment with priorities and suitability for targeting for scale and spread.
  • Establish a clear implementation model for the transition of innovative solutions into mainstream 'business as usual' services.
  • Support the development of innovation, simulation and developer environments with open APIs and agreed standards.
  • Use and contribute to the development of a 'national digital ecosystem' of common service components that can be used across the Scottish public sector.
  • Adopt the Scottish Government's Digital First Standards.
  • Establish a horizon scanning function, in conjunction with the Scottish Government's Digital Directorate, to develop our approach and preparedness around the role and adoption of emerging and future technologies e.g. automation, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and 5G.

'Getting many of the desired long-term benefits will require that Scotland becomes a leader in digital innovation, and that it enables research on the data produced by clinical systems, where it has the opportunity to be one of the top nations in the world.'
– External Expert Panel report on digital technology in health and social care

3. To make better use of information, knowledge, research and innovation we will:

  • Provide dynamic data capability, with machine learning where appropriate, that enables a forward looking predictive view that supports modelling and continuous improvement of future health and care services, finance and workforce.
  • Support the development and implementation of common standards across the Scottish Public Sector.
  • Harness the power of data to better understand the drivers of inequalities and poor public health outcomes, and use this to develop new digitally based services and interventions that can make a difference.
  • Promote and facilitate appropriate, safe and secure access to clinical, biomedical, social care and other data about individuals for approved research in the public interest, including through managed collaborations between the public third and industry sectors, and academia.
  • Work with the Digital Health & Care Institute, CivTech®, and other relevant organisations such as the other innovation centres and Health Data Research UK ( HDR UK) in order to leverage opportunities for research, development and analytics, including those offered by the City Deals and Regional Inclusive Growth Deals as well as other UK and EU opportunities.


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