Digital health and care strategy: enabling, connecting and empowering

A refreshed strategy is available at (October 2021).


Technology is fundamentally changing the way we live our lives. The internet has opened up access to information and services 24/7 – changing the way we bank, the way we shop, the way we travel, the way we communicate, the way we are entertained, the way we pay for things – and provided us with greater choice and control than ever before. Advances in technology too – from basic mobiles to smart phones and tablets, sensor and imaging technologies, the Internet of Things, wearables, cloud computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence to name but a few – are increasingly changing how we interact with services and manage our lives.

'Digital technology has the potential to change the face of health and social care delivery.'
– Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee report on technology and innovation in health and social care

Both the Scottish Government and Local Government recognise the absolute necessity of digital as part of public service reform. Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world: A Digital strategy for Scotland [1] sets out to enable Scotland's people and services to fully maximise the potential of digital, by ensuring that we put digital at the heart of everything we do. It is undeniable that digital is now a core – and critical – component of all aspects of our lives and lies at the heart of modern, efficient organisations and business practices.

'Digital technology is key to transforming health and social care services so that care can become more person-centred.'
– Scottish Government, Health and Social Care Delivery Plan [2]

That this extends to health and social care is recognised in the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan [3] , which provides the framework and the principal strategic objectives for this strategy across the triple aim of better care, better health and better value. The Delivery Plan goes on to identify digital technology as key to transforming health and social care services so that care can become more citizen-centred.

Digital technology is the area of greatest change in society, and of potential transformation for health and social care.

Of course there has been substantial progress through previous strategies and programmes. eHealth has enabled the successful delivery of many core IT systems required to support service delivery and management processes at a local level. Technology Enabled Care has made important strides to empower individuals to live more independently and manage their own care at home, as well as helping us to develop evidence-based approaches to scaling up as part of service design.

The Scottish Government's Digital Directorate has created challenging standards for digital services underpinned by a robust process of assurance, and is working with partners to identify, develop and promote shared platforms and service components across organisational boundaries.

The Digital Office for Scottish Local Government has established a comprehensive programme of work that includes digital health and social care, and is supporting digital excellence across Local Government.

In the housing, third and independent care sectors, a small number of providers have embraced some truly innovative approaches to using digital to support greater independent living.

There is, however, significant further opportunity for digital to support the way that services are delivered, and to empower people to more actively engage with and manage their own health and wellbeing. That is why this strategy has been developed jointly by the Scottish Government, COSLA and NHSScotland following extensive engagement and independent advice from a panel of UK and international experts, chaired by Professor David Bates – signalling our intent for collaboration and a willingness to learn from elsewhere. It sets out the actions that we will focus on with our delivery partners in order to ensure that the right building blocks are in place for our vision to be realised.

In order to be successful, we all need to change our culture to embrace this new way of working, and we must also embrace the business transformation needed around it.

Digital strategy for Scotland

Scotland's overall digital strategy [4] provides the lead for:

  • supporting digital transformation by delivering public services that meet the needs of the public
  • effective use of data
  • developing standards and assurances
  • improving and extending our broadband and mobile networks
  • increasing digital participation
  • making sure Scotland is a world leader in cyber resilience


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