Justene Ewing: Time to invest in Scotland’s health

People aged 75 and over live with more long-term illness and are the highest users of healthcare services. Picture: TSPL
People aged 75 and over live with more long-term illness and are the highest users of healthcare services. Picture: TSPL
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WITH Scotland’s ever-ageing population, an investment in new approaches is essential to maintaining the health of citizens – including digital health care, writes Justene Ewing

SOME 25 per cent of children born today will live to reach the age of 103. That’s quite a remarkable achievement, perhaps due in part to better healthcare, better environments and fewer wars.

However, it’s an achievement that is set to transform everything from employment to welfare and the norms of family life.

And it will, of course, place a huge pressure on our health and care services as people live longer with more longterm health conditions.

Over the next ten years, the proportion of over-75s in Scotland will increase by more than 25 per cent.

People aged 75 and over live with more long-term illness and are the highest users of healthcare services.

They are three-and-a-half times more likely to be admitted to hospital as an emergency.

It’s estimated that the number of people living with dementia will rise from 80,000 today to 136,000 in the next 20 years.

This type of demand on the health service is unsustainable. Scotland’s healthcare budget will need to make equivalent efficiency improvements of 35 per cent per annum to maintain current standards of care for increasing numbers and requirements.

We have an imperative to do something different to challenge the norm, and digital health interventions are key to the solution.

This presents us with a unique opportunity in Scotland. Scotland has a history of innovation and the country’s SMEs, entrepreneurs and tech companies have the ambition, creativity and fresh, risky ideas that are needed to change the status quo. We have the capability and capacity to be a leader in the growing global digital healthcare market.

It will take time to embed and make transformational changes, but we’re already making progress. In less than two years, the Digital Health & Care Institute has developed more than 70 live projects worth £3.2 million and we will continue that level of investment.

Working alongside businesses, healthcare officials, policy-makers, academics and investors, we can inspire the next generation of cutting-edge technologies, offering people greater choice and flexibility of care and we can place Scotland at the forefront of digital health technology.

• Justene Ewing is chief executive of the Digital Health & Care Institute