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  • Lloyd Price

Scotland’s New Digital Health and Care Strategy Unveiled

The Scottish Government’s new Digital Health and Care Strategy highlights need for collaboration, innovation and flexibility.

The newly launched strategy identifies the massive potential for digital technology to change the way care services are delivered for the better. The ambitious plan recognises the integral part digital must play in service reform. It asserts that digital transformation has the potential to change the face of health and social care delivery.

The strategy was developed jointly by the Scottish Government, COSLA and NHS Scotland following engagement and independent advice from a panel of UK and international experts chaired by Professor David W Bates MD MSc. The plan shows evidence which suggests there is a need for a new model that involves a more open and flexible approach.

Great emphasis is put on partnership, saying that only through effective collaboration and the sharing of collective skills, talents and capacity that already exists within public services, industry and academia can its goals be achieved.

National Decision-Making Board

By July 2018, the government plans to have established a national decision-making board made up of executive representatives of the Scottish Government, Local Government and the NHS, with additional support and advice from industry, academia and the third sector. The board’s objectives are to make national decisions on issues such as interoperability standards, coordinating developments across regions, monitoring progress on the strategy and sharing best practice.

National Digital Platform for Scotland

To bring this strategy to fruition, it will need to put in place the underpinning architectural and information governance building blocks for the effective flow of information across the whole care system.

To achieve this level of secure data sharing it recommends a single platform or spine, for data that other systems connect into: “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.”

The platform will be structured to make use of secure cloud-based services and the use of common shared international standards. Building on the steps already taken by the Health and Social Care Services Portal and NHS Inform, citizens will be able to access and update their information regarding their own health.

Person Centred Care

By having digital at the heart of its strategy, it believes that social care services can become more citizen-focused. Providing people with a better user experience, improved access and convenience, more personalised services, and actively foster their trust in how their data is handled by the system are key outcomes of the strategy.

As a minimum requirement, all health and care organisations in Scotland will have to formally adopt the Scottish Digital Service Standard: “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 we are already increasingly using for all other aspects of our lives.”

“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.”

Strategy Represents New Opportunity

Scotland is in a strong position to do this due to its comparatively small geography and population size, which will make its adoption more do-able: “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 Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison said: “The new strategy represents a real opportunity to build on achievements to date and maximise the opportunities for digital for the future, supporting the more preventative, person-centred care that we want to see.”

Digital Skills and Access

To tackle the issue of digital exclusion and to ensure the uptake of digital services, all organisations involved in the delivery of care will be expected to sign up to a digital participation charter, which will focus on ensuring people have basic digital skills: “A programme of digital training should be implemented for those who would benefit from it, across all clinical and social care domains, across information technology professionals and data scientists at all skill levels.”

“There should be mandatory training for all current and future health and social care professionals as a core part of workforce development.”

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