Priority one: People have digital access to information, their own data and services which support their health and wellbeing, wherever they are.
Society has seen fundamental changes over the past decade in how technology is used to support access to services, and the ways in which they are offered. People want and expect to have greater choice and control over how – and increasingly when – they access their care, support and services.
This means offering digital and non-digital options.
The response to Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of change across health and care, with services moving quickly and innovatively to provide better access to flexible and digitally enabled support. For many people, this has increased choice and flexibility. For services, it has eased pressures, freeing up time and capacity for services which cannot be delivered digitally.
Around 300 people a week were using video conferencing technology to access health and care services/appointments at the start of 2020.
By mid-2020, this number had risen to approximately 20,000 appointments every week, via the Near Me video consultation service.
In July 2021, over 1 million appointments had been delivered virtually.
Our ambition in 2018 was merely to spread its use: now we want to build on this and make it a choice that is available in every relevant health and social care interaction for every member of society.
For many people across Scotland digital exclusion remains an issue. This may be due to a lack of access to an appropriate device or a lack of skills and confidence to use digital services and to take advantage of the opportunities and benefits that come from being digitally connected. Supporting the development of digital skills in health and care and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their geography or background, can choose to access digital services across health and care is essential to ensuring that they really are for everyone. It is also in line with Scotland's overriding aim to achieve world-leading levels of digital inclusion.
Our underlying focus remains on addressing inequalities and improving citizen experience, making digital services as accessible as possible. This means services which communicate with each other across our integrated health and care system, but also digital options that are available in a range of formats and recognise that people have different accessibility needs.
Ensuring digital access for all is an essential element of shifting the focus of health and care systems from crisis intervention towards prevention, early intervention, enablement and supported self-management. Achieving our ambitions will support people to not only access support, but to manage and control their own health and care needs.
To improve digital access we will:
- Build on our Transforming Local Systems Pathfinders and involve citizens at all stages in the design and delivery of digital services to increase engagement and improve data quality, in line with the Scottish Approach to Service Design.
- Work with Connecting Scotland to ensure everyone is supported to access the devices, data and support they need to be able to use digital technology.
- Work with partners to ensure patients and residents of health and care services have full access to free Wi-Fi, both bedside and in public areas within healthcare settings.
- Make video-based access via the Near Me service a choice available for all appropriate appointments and services across health and care. This includes increasing the number of ways people can access the care, support and information they need, including opening up video-based access to group consultations, educational resources and peer support groups for all.
- Provide access to, and enable citizens to have control over, their own health and care information – including the ability to view and update information contained in their records, and access information such as test results, letters and treatment/care plans.
- Provide 24-hour digital access to services through asynchronous communication (the ability to 'chat' with services any time, when an instant response is not required, such as via email and online).
- Further develop and implement online triage so that people can be better supported/directed to information that allows them to access the most appropriate service depending on their needs, including self-service, Pharmacy First and others.
- Increase the number of ways whereby people can access the care, support and information they need, including through social prescribing.
- Ensure people understand their rights and responsibilities for using digital means to access information and services, and support people to embrace existing, new and emerging technologies.
- Continue to work closely with the Digital Equality and Inclusion Group to ensure work covered by this strategy recognises the diversity of Scotland's people and their accessibility needs, and embeds equality approaches.