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What do we mean by digital health and social care?
What do we mean by digital health and social care?

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1 Defining digital health and social care technology

As Figure 1 (in the Introduction) showed, there are lots of different types of technology, so it might be useful to define what we mean by digital health and social care technology before exploring particular policy in your region. This section will enable you to define the concept of digital health and social care technologies.

In 2019 the Topol Review estimated that by 2039, 90% of jobs will require digital skills (Topol, 2019). Therefore, the digital skills you are learning as you study will be valuable both now and in the future. There are many perspectives about what digital health and social care is, ranging from simple use of electronic records through to more complex artificial intelligence and robotics in surgery.

You will probably have heard a lot of different terms to describe digital health and social care technology. For example, the Digital Health & Care Institute (2018) use the term ‘Health Information Technology’ (HIT), The Welsh Government (2015), National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2019) and King’s Fund (in Macguire et al., 2019) use phrases such as ‘digital technology’, ‘digital health technologies’ (DHT) and ‘digital change’ while NICE (2019) outline quality standards requirements for the use of such technology, including information about how to evidence effectiveness and economic benefits (cost versus benefit).

Figure 2 provides a summary of the different ‘levels’ and ‘purpose’ of digital technology.

The figure shows a table with four distinct sections. The top section describes Evidence tier 3a which is Preventative behavioural change (Address public health issues: smoking, eating, alcohol, sexual health, sleeping and exercise) and Self-manage (allows people to self-manage a specified condition. May include behavioural change techniques). The section titled Evidence tier 3b contains Treat (provides or guides treatment) and Active monitoring (tracking patient location, using wearables to measure, record and / or transmit data about a specified condition), Calculate (a calculator that impacts on treatment, diagnosis or care) Diagnose (diagnoses a specified condition, guides diagnoses). The third section illustrates Evidence tier 2, which is Inform (provides information, resources or activities to the public, patients or clinicians. Includes information about a condition or general health and lifestyle). Simple monitoring (includes general health monitoring using fitness wearables and simple symptom diaries), Communicate (allows two way communication between citizens, patients or healthcare professionals). The final section illustrates Evidence tier one; these are Systems services (DHTs with no measurable patient outcomes but which provide services to the health and social care system).
Figure 2 NICE (2019) Evidence Standards framework for digital health technologies.

Activity 1 What do you understand by digital health and social care?

The following video was produced by The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland in 2016 to explain digital health options. You may already receive some of these services. It also invites feedback from viewers. Watch it and then answer the question below.

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Video 1 What is digital health?
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Think about the term ‘digital health and social care technology’ and write down your own definition of this from your own perspective.

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Different people will have different definitions that reflect the wider context of digital health and social care. Your definition might have come from your own experience as an individual consumer of health care or from your work. Definitions will probably have included the internet, mobile or smartphone applications, electronic records or even games.