Refining the Human Rights Principles for Digital Health and Social Care

Written by: Gordon Johnston, Director, VOX (Voices of eXperience) Scotland

Published: 23/08/2021

Programme logo: colourful words reading 'Human RIghts Principles in Digital Health and Social Care'. Logos of partners: Scottish Care, VOX, ALLIANCE

Gordon Johnston (VOX, Director) reflects on the collaborative work undertaken in partnership with Scottish Care and the ALLIANCE.

Over the past year VOX, the ALLIANCE and Scottish Care have been working together to develop a human rights based approach to the use of digital technologies in health and social care.

Our ultimate goal is to set out a series of principles by which digital provision should be offered, enabling the rights of those who use these services to be protected.

We’ve seen the use of digital technology become increasingly widespread through the COVID-19 period and we know that there are significant benefits for many people from this rapid expansion. But we also know that there are also barriers that prevent others from participating fully.

Scottish Care launched a co-produced Human Rights Charter for Technology and Digital in Social Care in September 2019. We took that excellent document as our starting point and worked to see whether its human rights principles could be expanded across all of health and social care.

From this work we developed an initial set of six draft Principles:

  • People At The Centre
  • Human Rights Principles
  • Digital As Ongoing Choice
  • Digital Where It Is Best Suited
  • Digital Inclusion, Not Just Widening Access
  • Personal Ownership of Digital Data

To find out more about this phase of the work, please read our paper: Exploring the application of Human Rights Principles in Digital Health and Social Care

We then ran three consultation workshop events in June and July to seek a wide variety of views on our draft Principles and how useful they might be. We talked to people who use digital services, those who provide services and support workers who engage with digitally excluded groups. These were all lively and extremely informative sessions.

We also ran a survey and produced an engagement pack so that organisations could run their own events.

This engagement activity gave us a great deal of incredibly useful feedback. People told us of many positive experiences they’d had of using digital services, and also outlined some of the key barriers. They were broadly supportive of the Principles we’d set out, while giving us some good suggestions to reword and enhance them.

We’ve now worked to refine and improve our Principles based on what people told us. We will be unveiling a near final set at Scottish Care’s Care Tech 4 conference (this link will take you away from our website) later this week. This will also give another opportunity for engagement and feedback.

We will then produce a paper with the final Principles, which we will use to campaign for the better implementation of human rights principles in digital health and social care.

The use of technology has become increasingly important in health and social care, and that trend is likely to continue. We believe that the use of human rights based principles to underpin digital delivery will ensure that it it done in a manner that respects the rights of everyone.

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