A new report has called on the Scottish Government to invest in data, digital and technology to help transform the country’s health and social care sector.
Published by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), the Mind the Gap report highlights how the collection, analysis and sharing of data on coronavirus has played a critical role in helping save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, data has been shared across health and social care in Scotland to help identify and control outbreaks and influence public health restrictions.
Similarly, as vaccine roll-out efforts continue, the report suggests that more efficient data-sharing will help accelerate distribution.
A key recommendation of the report focuses on investment in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, which could ‘revolutionise’ health and social care across Scotland.
Drawing on research compiled by Dell and EY, the report estimates that Scotland’s health and social care data could be worth a staggering £800 million every year, and could also be harnessed to deliver £5.4 billion in savings for NHS Scotland alone.
Investment now could help reduce demand pressures across the sector which have intensified due to the coronavirus. Additionally, the adoption of new technologies could also improve working environments and increase productivity among healthcare practitioners.
Commenting on the report findings, SCDI Chief Executive Sara Thiam said: “As we look to recover and build resilience from Covid-19, this report could not be more timely or more important.
“Our doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social care professionals working in our hospitals, our care homes and our communities have been heroic throughout the pandemic. They deserve our support to harness data, digital and technology to transform health & social care for the future.”
Thiam added that Scotland has a “narrow window of opportunity” to establish itself as a global leader in health and social care data innovation. To achieve this, however, the report said the country must first overcome its ‘data gap’.
The report identified this as being the gap between ‘the health & social care data we collect, utilise or share today and the health & social care data we need and could collect, utilise or share in the future’ to better design and deliver care and services.
According to SCDI, trust and transparency will be key to addressing the issue, and the report outlined four priorities for long-term, strategic investment:
- Strategy: Developing an ambitious, collaborative and innovative national approach to harnessing data to transform health & social care which maximises social and economic gains
- Culture & Leadership: Empowering leaders to drive change by building an ambitious and collaborative national culture of innovation in data, digital and technology
- Skills: Investing in reskilling, upskilling and lifelong learning to develop a health & social care workforce better equipped to harness data, digital and technology
- Infrastructure: Modernising and upgrading health & social care infrastructure to build a single national data architecture which integrates systems, enables ethical data sharing and creates secure digital health records
Steph Wright, Director of Health & Wellbeing Engagement, The Data Lab, commented: “Data and AI have huge potential to significantly impact the delivery of better health and social care in Scotland. As Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI, we at the Data Lab were delighted to contribute to this report.
“We look forward to working with everyone to realise this potential.”
DIGIT’S 2021 #virtualevents calendar:
📅 #MarTech Summit https://t.co/JkViHnOzbF Wed 24 Feb
📅 ScotSecure #CyberSecurity Summit https://t.co/JaD886wGh9 24/ 25 Mar
📅 #DigitalEnergy Summit https://t.co/thGSfrBqlM 22 Apr
📅 DIGIT #Leader Summit https://t.co/alC1xjRvtW 26 May pic.twitter.com/XXGqh5Braw
— DIGIT (@digitfyi) January 18, 2021
The SCDI report welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to create a dedicated data strategy for health & social care, which is due to be published later in 2021.
However, it warned that the delivery of the strategy must be backed by a Health & Social Care Transformation Fund to invest in closing Scotland’s Data Gap.
- Ethical business event Impact Summit unveils speakers
- Converge kicks off its search for Scotland’s future creative thinkers
- Cyber Scotland Week to showcase country’s flourishing sector
Alison Culpan, Director of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry in Scotland, said: “Now more than ever we need to close the data gap and re-establish Scotland as a country at the forefront of digital innovation.
“This report clearly outlines the steps required to realise the data vision and ensure healthcare data can not only improve patient lives but stimulate economic growth in a post-Covid world.”