Associate feature: Advancing digital inclusion in Scotland’s health and care sector
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of digital inclusion, but it has also shone a spotlight on current digital inequalities and, in some cases, exacerbated them.
This has been seen across all sectors, but some of the most poignant examples come from the health and care sector.
Holyrood's tenth annual Digital Health and Care conference explored this topic, with a session sponsored by Agilisys.
Joined by representatives from Scottish Care and the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland, it highlighted three key messages: if we are to truly see the benefits of technological solutions, we need to ensure that a person-led approach is placed at the heart of design; that the workforce is confident and trained to use technological solutions; and that there is reliable and equitable access to digital infrastructure for all.
Infrastructure and connectivity are the starting points that underpin any discussion around digital inclusion and ensuring equitable access to everyone, in all parts of the country.
Without it, it will be difficult to achieve the full potential of what digital technology can offer.
It is widely acknowledged that digital technology has the potential to enhance the health and social care experience, from empowering and enabling individuals to be more independent and able to make more decisions about their care to supporting the workforce in the delivery and management of that care.
But there are challenges too, as Emma Donnelly, the Coalition of Care and Support Providers (CCPS), outlined: “Digital inclusion is complex. The main challenges are often interconnected, and I think it’s important to think about one, if we’re considering the right solutions to the right problems and two, how we understand the wider context of digital inclusion and how it links to social care.”
A common set of principles is a good starting point.
Technology providers work to common standards and practices and good design is agile and adopts a person-led approach from design to delivery, starting with people, not technology and really understanding he complexities involved.
Kevin Evans, from Agilisys, explained the approach: “Agile is all about really short development cycles, where the user is fully involved in testing and designing all the way along so we build as much confidence as we can that the experience is going to be right.
“Good briefing, good design, good execution, it does actually reduce risk.
“It does improve digital inclusion according to all of the yardsticks and that should mean better outcomes, lower costs and lower risks.”
The idea of a technology and digital human rights charter, like the one developed by Scottish Care, that everyone involved, from designers to policymakers to practitioners, can sign up to and use as a common reference point and benchmark makes sense, attendees heard.
But it was also highlighted that sometimes technology won’t be the right treatment approach or what an individual needs, and being able to say this is in an environment that has this principle at its heart is important.
There was a reminder that digital technology should not be viewed as a way of cutting costs but instead as a long-term investment that require sustainable funding from organisations, local authorities and governments and robust implementation strategies to embed the technologies and upskill those who interact with them.
It was also noted that it can be easy to overestimate how comfortable an individual person feels about using technology, particularly given how reliant we have become on it during the pandemic.
The conclusion was that in reality we have a long way to go and we must prioritise workforce upskilling – in both organisational budgets and training plans and during workforce planning– if we are to achieve digital inclusion.
Dr Tara French, from Scottish Care, commented: “We need to move beyond typical improvement approaches.
“We need to move towards transformational mindsets and starting from that point and thinking about how we can engage people meaningfully.”
Working in partnership and tailoring approaches to different situations and problems will help to ensure that Scotland’s health and care sector is one where there is digital choice, respect and empowerment.
For over 20 years, Agilisys has partnered with healthcare, local government, and organisations throughout the public sector, working with them to unlock the potential of technology and transform the services that improve lives. www.agilisys.co.uk
This feature was sponsored by Agilisys