Data-Driven Care in a Digital Age: One Year On

Written by
Carol Sinclair

Scotland’s first Data Strategy for Health and Social Care, ‘Greater access, better insight, improved outcomes: a strategy for data driven care in the digital age’ published in February 2023, set out the vision and ambitions for improving the use of health and social care data to deliver the best care possible for the people of Scotland.

The vision of the Strategy is:

  • to empower the people of Scotland
  • to empower those delivering health and social care services
  • to ensure ‘fit for purpose’ data is readily accessible.

As chair of the Data Board for Health and Social Care, I’m pleased to say that the Data Strategy has been widely welcomed and its focus on telling a better story on how data can and does drive improvements in care and services has been praised. We have made good progress in our first year and I’d like to touch on a few areas where I feel we have made a significant impact.

The recently published update reflects on the areas where we have gained good traction and made significant progress with one example being a commission to review and refresh the Safe Havens Charter to ensure the security and safety of data held in these repositories as well as facilitating greater access to these data.

Ethical approaches to data remain core to our Strategy. We have continued to champion the ethical use of data and have prioritised exploring ways in which we can improve the quality and completeness of data, starting with race and ethnicity data.

Improving our technology and infrastructure to enable easier access and sharing of data for staff is key and we will soon have a technical blueprint that will be immensely helpful in improving our decision-making about what we need, how we use it and what we don’t yet have but need.

To truly make best use of data it is not enough to improve systems, staff must also have the confidence and skills to use data effectively.  That is why we have focused our efforts on developing a range of offers to support and enable staff to be more data confident and competent.

The update also highlights where we know we need to do more, and we will continue to work with a wide range of stakeholder communities to shape and inform projects and programmes of work to make real and tangible advances e.g. formalising the governance to oversee improvements in the processes and systems that underpin effective information governance.

The Strategy remains highly relevant and valuable as an instrument to continue to drive forward further work on data access, data sharing, and the visualisation and interpretation of data to support effective planning of care and services along with evidencing the impact of these on improving outcomes for the people of Scotland. Often the starting point for service design and delivery is grounded in robust research using highly complex, linked datasets and the recently launched Researcher Access Service by Research Data Scotland has been a major step forward in ensuring timely access to data.

We are committed to make progress across all the domains of the Strategy, and the year one update shows that we are perhaps stronger in some areas than others and we will be working hard to achieve greater balance in 2024-25 to ensure that everyone can see the benefits arising from delivery of the Strategy’s ambitions and commitments.

We are challenged by the complexity of health and social care and understand there is a long way to go but we believe that by taking a step-by-step approach to delivering the changes and improvements we strive to make we can continue to build on early successes.

Going forward, we will also set out how we can best measure the impact that implementation of deliverables is having across the health and social care sector as a whole. This will help us to better understand the number of people that have benefited as a result and demonstrate the impact the Strategy is having.

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