In the Nordics, we are often considered as pioneers of digital transformation in health care. Digital technologies for supporting patients and health data collection are booming and great initiatives have been kicked off. Yet, we are struggling with implementation and fully embracing the opportunities provided by these new technologies.
During the autumn 2016 our team visited several hospitals and research institutes especially in the field of oncology in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Increasing patient centricity and engagement, reducing waiting time of patients and improving quality of care is on everyone’s agenda. However, in order to pursue this vision, extensive efforts and investments are needed, especially in terms of infrastructure and IT investments.
Redefined Nordic healthcare systems
The Finnish Government recently agreed on a large healthcare reform (Helsingin Sanomat, 21.12.2016), and the Swedish regions and municipalities aim to be the leading eHealth providers in 2025 (eHälsomyndigheten).
The Capital Region and Region Zealand in Denmark expect to spend approximately €290 million on a modern Healthcare Platform Program called Sundhedsplatformen. The goal is to improve treatment outcomes and care pathways, as well as to promote patient engagement. The intention is also to collect relevant data for clinical decision making and to improve work routines at hospitals. A similar project, Apotti, is ongoing also in the Capital Region in Finland. The investment is summing up to approximately €580 million during a period of 10 years, and the main target is to integrate services under one platform in order to improve processes and to better target the healthcare services.
These investments have potential to solve some of the most fundamental issues of our current systems. However, these general digital environments do not necessarily serve the particular needs of structured data and evaluation of care outcomes in certain medical fields. For example, a report by the Swedish government points out that the regional differences in cancer care availability are too large and that there is a need to develop personalized care models. Finland also struggles with similar issues, as reported by Yle.
3 ways to intensify Nordic eHealth collaboration in cancer care
We believe that more structured cooperation within the Nordic countries could help us retain the high standards of healthcare we have, and to develop cancer care even further. Below our three notes on how to strengthen the collaboration:
- Agree on common guidelines for the collection of patient-reported data (and follow them)
Our modern digital infrastructure has enabled electronic quality registers and health records, where large amounts of data is available for exploration. Projects around patient-reported outcomes are ongoing at many university hospitals in the Nordics, but are we following the same standards? ICHOM, for instance, has developed follow-up sets to utilize ways of measuring and reporting patient outcomes. We need to agree upon standardized models in the Nordics for data collection and patient follow-up.
Patient-reported data provides healthcare professionals with insights on treatment efficacy. For instance, the Nordics’ current regional differences in cancer care could be studied closer by benchmarking treatment outcomes through national quality registers and patient-reported data collected by novel eHealth solutions, such as Kaiku® Health.
- Share best practices for engaging the patients
Patient engagement and personalized care is highlighted in many discussions currently. Especially among elderly, it is important to engage patients to avoid isolation (see our recent blogpost on this topic). Also, peer support will be an important way for patients to support each other in the future, and here larger support groups will increase the chance of finding patients who are in a similar situation or have had similar experiences as other patients. We need to be stronger in supporting the patients, and if enhanced digital solutions can make this happen in one of the Nordic countries, we need to share these experiences.
For instance, HealthSPA is gathering leading healthcare innovators together and encouraging them to share their best practices. HealthSPA is also the organizer of the Upgraded Life Festival, which is an excellent place to meet up and discuss health innovations.
- Team up in research and analysis
Ongoing cancer research projects have been discussed during almost all of our meetings in the Nordics. The awareness of research projects in other Nordic countries should be raised, since we still sometimes find that we are unaware of what our neighbouring countries are doing. The competition between researchers and universities is healthy and encouraging, but could there also be a common research pool to compare ongoing or planned studies to raise awareness?
Are you an oncologist, or a healthcare IT professional?
Kaiku® Health is used by several University Hospitals as well as clinics in Finland and Sweden, but we are hoping to share our experiences with many more. We are looking to meet more healthcare professionals to hear about their visions and needs in future. By sharing our knowledge, we can improve cancer treatments and support the patients even more.
In March 2017, we are organizing an international Kaiku Meeting for our partners and key stakeholders. A forum for sharing valuable insights and shaping the future of personalized, data-driven care. If you are interested in joining us, do not hesitate to contact us.