Public Health Wales launches a new digital and data strategy

Public Health Wales (PHW) has launched a new digital and data strategy to enhance health data accessibility, quality, and security, acting as an enabling strategy to deliver its long term public health strategy.

The strategy sets out three overarching themes: to build strong foundations, build in alignment and to build to make a difference.

On building alignment, the strategy emphasises that “we aren’t delivering in a vacuum” and states: “We will take responsibility about being open about the work we do and finding out what other work is happening in the wider sector” in order to reduce the risk of duplication.

It notes the need for digital and data work to align with PHW’s long-term strategy, to align with standards and programmes, and also places focus on the need for “fair and equal access to our data in PHW and across the NHS”. On standards in particular, the strategy notes the need for shared standards, and using national or international standards for data and digital products and services. Here, it covers the Code of Practice for Statistics, the Wales digital service design standard; and the data sharing code of practice. 

Regarding aligning with programmes, the strategy notes a need for PHW to align itself to ongoing work as “one part of a much wider picture”, including aligning to an existing project across Wales to link up electronic prescribing; to the Laboratory Information Systems programmes; and to the National Data Resource. On this, PHW comments on a “need to be able to meet our responsibilities as a node in this distributed network” and adds that “registers of information should be easy for anyone in the NHS family to access for the right reasons”.

In addition, the strategy highlights the need to align projects with NHS partners in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, noting how this can help support with disease management: “We need to benchmark our information with countries across the UK and Europe, and when there are epidemics we need to coordinate seamlessly across the UK and the world.”

On providing equal and fair access to data, the strategy shares plans to reuse data to reduce the burden on services and service users; to create and publish “good catalogues” of data and document systems and architecture; and to put in place “clear sharing agreements and governance processes”. It adds that systems and processes will be designed “from the beginning with sharing in mind”, for an “open by default, secure by design” approach in which digital services are an “integrated part of each whole service”.

Looking at ‘building to make a difference’, the strategy notes an aim to “make a measurable difference to health and wellbeing through powerful, actionable data and analysis, and innovative, efficient digital tools”. There are seven key parts to this work: creating together, being where people are, having an agile mindset, using APIs as building bricks, harnessing new opportunities, leveraging artificial intelligence, and acting on insights and evaluation.

Expanding on this, the strategy shares planned actions including embracing user-centred design and developing user research abilities; modernising the PHW web presence, emphasising NHS branding and building web journeys around user journeys; promoting and championing agile ways of working; and committing to using “clean, public APIs” so that services can connect with other services for a “seamless journey”. In addition, PHW pledges to work with health boards to understand potential improvements; to explore technologies such as wearable devices and mobile technology; and to track impact of work to support decision-making, influence government priorities, support citizens with self-management and measure efficiency of data and systems. On artificial intelligence, the strategy shares that PHW has “recently applied to develop an AI commission with a view to supporting activity in this area in Wales”.

Concluding the strategy, PHW highlights that an evaluation plan is to be developed to examine progress and also shares that a Digital and Data Design Authority is in development. “This is a group where individuals from every part of Public Health Wales come together to share responsibility for deciding what is most important to do first,” the strategy explains, adding: “Making decisions about priority will encourage us to be aware of each other’s needs and to share our resources and knowledge based on the needs of the wider organisation.”

To read the strategy in full, please click here.

In other news from Wales, earlier today we shared how NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership has awarded a contract to procure a primary care workforce intelligence system, with the aim of introducing a platform capable of integrating processes in medical, dental, , ophthalmic and community pharmacy practices as well as the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership and Health Boards.

In September, we covered the news that three digital community pharmacy system suppliers have been awarded grants to support the delivery of an electronic prescription service in Wales; and in July we covered the digital and data strategy for health and social care from the Welsh government.