Friday, June 02, 2017
It Looks Like Sweden Is Another Country Struggling With Digital Health.
This appeared a few days ago.
The Local Client Studio
26 May 2017 11:23 CEST+02:00
Think a world-class public healthcare system, a stable of leading tech firms, and an impressive track-record of digital innovation make Sweden a shoe-in for the top spot globally in digital healthcare? Think again.
Sweden has long been admired for its comprehensive system of social welfare in which taxpayers fund an impressive range of benefits, with public healthcare provision at its core.
At Sweden is also ranked in several indices rank as one of the world’s most innovative countries, and is home to several successful global firms as well as tech startup scene that’s churning out new firms that have the power to turn traditional industries on their heads.
More broadly, Sweden is also a very mobile savvy, connected society, with deep penetration of high-speed internet connections (93 percent of Swedes had internet access in 2015) and smartphones (77 percent). Nor are Swedes afraid to conduct transactions online, with 79 percent having bought goods and services over the net in 2015.
With such favourable conditions, it seems obvious the country that helped rewrite the rules for digital delivery of music and banking services is doing the same when digital healthcare.
But while strides have been made in healthcare digitalization, progress has been far from uniform. Overloaded IT infrastructure, coordination difficulties, and other factors have slowed the sort of investment needed to fully accomplish Sweden’s digital healthcare transformation – the consequences of which are already affecting patients.
In March 2017, for example, the IT system at a hospital in Västerås in central Sweden went offline for several hours in the middle of the night. Suddenly, doctors couldn’t access information about patients’ medications or whereabouts in the hospital.
“We can’t guarantee patient safety right now,” a concerned nurse told the local newspaper.
The incident came just a few weeks after doctors in Region Kronoberg in southern Sweden were unable to login to a critical system for nearly two hours. And back in September 2016, an IT system malfunction in Uppsala disrupted operations at clinics and hospitals throughout the county for days, prompting nurses and doctors to revert to pen and paper.
Part of the problem, according to Vasil Gocevski, CEO of Swedish IT company Seavus, stems from a lack of IT infrastructure investment within Sweden’s healthcare sector.
“Hospitals in Sweden could learn a lot from what banks and telecoms firms have done when it comes to adding redundancy,” he says.
And while Seavus has been busy helping hospitals elsewhere in Europe digitize their data and processes, so far hospitals in Sweden have been slow to react.
“In some cases, we see healthcare systems in other parts of the world running much faster than Sweden,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s current government has high hopes for digital healthcare, having recently approved the E-health Vision 2025, which calls on Sweden to be “best in the world” at using digitalization possibilities to improve access to quality healthcare.
“E-health is a priority area for the government,” says health minister Gabriel Wikström.
And no wonder – a 2016 report by the McKinsey consultancy estimated that Sweden could shave 25 percent off its annual healthcare costs in the coming years, which translates into a saving of 180 billion kronor in 2025.
And many of the digital solutions to help streamline healthcare already exist.
For example, some parts of the country have trialed digital appointments, allowing patients to have a first consultation via an app rather than forcing them to travel to a physical doctor’s office and wait in line. The solution depends in part on Sweden’s BankID system, originally developed to facilitate secure transactions for online banking.
Lots more here:
Yet again I have to imagine the consultants are rather excitable about the benefits to be made but overall it is clear national digital health is being pretty hard to really get implemented and even harder to extract benefits.
Useful educational read on another advanced economy struggling with e-Health.
Posted by Dr David G More MB PhD at Friday, June 02, 2017