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The use of data and intelligence in meaningful and impactful ways to promote long term health and well-being will play a central role for the new Public Health Scotland. Alongside this is a need to partner local, regional and national stakeholders early in the innovation process to realise the improvements we need, while reducing inequalities. Brendan Faulds, Associate Director, NHS National Services Scotland outlines his take on the task at hand…

One of the key ways Public Health Scotland (PHS) will be equipped to respond to the many complex challenges facing the country will be its focus on innovation – an area which can be difficult to define. Innovation in the public health care sector can be as wide-ranging as promoting significant contributions to service delivery methods for individual patients and groups and/or assisting in the development and support of new products and technologies that will improve health and wellbeing locally, regionally and nationally.

However, innovation does not occur in a vacuum. It will require Public Health Scotland working with many and varied partners as part of a using whole system approach whole system approach to tackling Scotland’s six public health priorities.

Emerging, innovative technologies are increasingly able to be used to help solve challenges facing our whole health system such as waiting times targets, winter pressures on hospitals, and management of long term conditions. They also allow many aspects of health & care to be delivered with a person centric focus thereby reducing the dependence on traditional primary and secondary care models.

Collectively we will explore how we can successfully use this technology in ways that will add value (e.g. connecting remote & rural communities & individuals; improving equality of access to services; being more efficient; being more affordable or contributing to the quality of the citizen experience) always with the end goal of improving healthy life expectancy and reducing health inequalities.

Taking the whole system approach to stimulate and achieve successful innovation means creating an ecosystem capable of developing and managing collaborative projects with internal and external stakeholders (who will include government, academia, industry and even civil society in the form of the public itself, the third sector and community groups) all within the Scottish landscape and environment. In academic circles, this is defined as “Quintuple Helix Innovation” – see Figure 1.

Figure 1: Quintuple Helix Innovation

Using this approach effectively means we also remain responsive and alert to Data Science and Technology developments.

Data can be collected from many sources (e.g. apps, devices, surveys, complaints, suggestions, from research) and it creates evidence to help us understand what works and what doesn’t. Data Science is the ability to take that raw data and evidence and transform it into actionable information and knowledge. It is a science that is developing in capability at an exponential rate and embraces concepts and technologies such as Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

To effect this innovation ecosystem will be the utilisation of a Cycle of Innovation – see Figure 2.


Figure 2: Cycle of Innovation

This will provide for the strategic orchestration of our innovation activities, allowing a “fail fast” approach to be embedded ensuring best value from our constrained finances, resources and people. Basically, what all this means is that we will be able to Stimulate new innovative thinking in response to the challenges we set. We can then Evaluate those that show promise before we Proliferate (scale up) those that make economic sense and that deliver against the Priorities

All the learnings - whether they are ideas, proposals and solutions that are successfully proliferated or even ideas that don’t evaluate well or pass the scrutiny of due diligence - are fed back into the Public Health Knowledge & Evidence Base - to ensure that the whole system is constantly learning from its experiences.

We have an exceptional opportunity in Scotland to orchestrate our innovation in Public Health in new and exciting ways. We can revolutionise the experience of our citizens so they have a better relationship with their own health & wellbeing and have a longer life expectancy. Innovation in public health also has the potential to reduce social and economic inequalities. Although innovation takes time, the opportunities to shape the public health landscape are limitless.

Brendan Faulds has been Helping Transform Health & Care Delivery using Digital Health & Care Innovation in Scotland for over 5 years.

Connect with Brendan on LinkedIn.

Brendan Faulds

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