Digital health and care strategy: enabling, connecting and empowering

A refreshed strategy is available at (October 2021).

Moving Forward

What we will do

The focus of this strategy is two-fold, both of which will support our principal aim of fundamentally improving outcomes through better coordination and delivery of care:

1. We wish to empower citizens to better manage their health and wellbeing, support independent living and gain access to services through digital means. We know this is leading to a shift in the balance of care by using the tools and technologies that we are already increasingly using for all other aspects of our lives, and

2. In order to achieve this at scale, we need to put in place the underpinning architectural and information governance building blocks for the effective flow of information across the whole care system that will enable the transformational ambitions of the Health and Social Care Delivery Plan, including public health and social care reform priorities.

'We believe the new strategy provides an opportunity for the Scottish Government to lead the way and radically develop the way technology is used in the NHS and social care.'
– Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee report on technology and innovation in health and social care

There are a number of key national delivery partners, including the Local Government Digital Office, NHS 24, NHS National Services Scotland, NHS Education for Scotland, the Scottish Social Service Council, the Digital Health & Care Institute, the Scottish Government's Digital Directorate which includes the CivTech ® operation, and the Health & Social Care Alliance. At a local level, within individual territorial boards, local authorities and Integration Authorities, there are key individuals such as the eHealth Leads, clinical champions and TEC leads. But the scale of what we are proposing, indicates the need for a new delivery and leadership model that clearly supports national, regional and local implementation as well as transformation across all aspects of digital health and care. This will need to be a partnership with citizens that brings together the collective talent and expertise of our statutory organisations, delivery partners, industry and academia across Scotland.

In response to Christie [8] , four 'pillars' of public service reform [9] have been identified: prevention, performance, people and partnership. A key principle to this is co-production; the most powerful force for change we have are our citizens and our staff. If we are to truly transform how we deliver health and care, our citizens and front-line staff need to be involved from the very beginning for any service redesign.

An essential component of making digital health and care successful is therefore in involving citizens in the design of tools and technologies to support them. Our experience to date of using technology within our health and care system in Scotland is that those that have been designed with users are more likely to be successfully adopted.

We believe that in order to deliver on our ambitions, we need to formally adopt the Digital First Service Standard [10] as the minimum standard that all digital services developed nationally in Scotland should meet. The standard, which is a set of 22 criteria across three themes, aims to make sure that services in Scotland are continually improving and that users are always the focus, with co-production built in.

The above principles cover how you build digital systems and approaches, but there are many technologies already in existence – both ones in use in our healthcare system today, and those in the much broader 'consumer' space which we need to spread and scale. We will ensure that we reuse where possible, and utilise familiar and inclusive technology for staff and citizens that is as flexible and personalised as it can be. There are also 'low tech' options than can be better utilised by our services, such as text messaging and telephone to ensure an equitable approach.

We expect all future developments, whether nationally, regionally or locally developed and delivered, to follow these principles. In doing so, it is anticipated that we can also deliver a better experience of care for both professionals and citizens.

Enabling this requires us all to work collaboratively across six key areas, or domains:

  • National Direction and Leadership
  • Information Governance, Assurance and Cyber Security
  • Service Transformation
  • Workforce Capability
  • National Digital Platform
  • Transition Process.


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