Health Informatics

Scotland’s long tradition of using health data for research has resulted in one of the most highly developed health informatics systems in the world.  Few other countries have systems that combine high-quality data, consistency, and national coverage with the ability to link data to allow patient-based analysis and follow up.

Access to such high quality longitudinal data combined with years of bioinformatics experience and expertise has resulted in ready-made initiatives and infrastructure that enable innovation in the pharmaceutical industry including:

  • Invaluable information on disease incidence by sex, age and geographical location – gathered, verified and presented by the Information Services Division (ISD). This information can be used to undertake high-level clinical trial feasibilities to quantify the initial number of potential candidates for potential trials
  • A Health and Biomedical Informatics Research Strategy for Scotland to enhance research capability in health informatics for patient and public benefit, recognising the importance of stratified medicine, advances in information technology and the increasing complexity of the molecular understanding and treatment of disease
  • The development of a Scottish health and care ‘national digital platform’ linking relevant real-time data and information from health and care records.
  • The Precision Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre, a platform for collaboration linking Scotland’s expertise, data assets and delivery infrastructure to accelerate the real world adoption of Precision Medicine.


Healthcare Data – Connected

The abundance of health data in Scotland generated from over a decade of electronic patient records is made all the more powerful by the CHI number – a unique patient identifier that links data to individuals with rigorous anonymity.   The CHI number is used for all primary health care activities and is the key to linking health data for research purposes. 

Every person registered with a general practitioner (GP) in Scotland is allocated a unique identifying number from a centrally maintained register called the Community Health Index (CHI). The CHI register contains data on address, postcode, GP, date and region of registration and, where relevant, date of death, allowing the demographic profile of Scotland, death and patient migration to be easily analysed. In addition, there is a commitment that all clinical communications contain core identification data, including the CHI number, so that clinical data can be accessed when and wherever required.

Useful links 

NHS Research Scotland  

The Farr Institute Scotland

Precision Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre

The DataLab