Over the years, healthcare has been the most common subject featured in Almedalen. This year was no exception with over 200 seminars covering the area from different angles. After attending quite a few we noticed that the following ranks high on the agenda:
System of choice
A few years ago the government introduced a system of choice reform known as “vårdval”. Most of the regions and county council’s in Sweden have implemented this system, but in somewhat different ways. In Västra Götaland the inhabitants can now choose which primary care centre they want to be listed at – regardless of where they live. In other words, the end result has increased the patient’s right to decide on where to seek care and resulted in a more accessible primary healthcare.
Quality registries were established in the Swedish healthcare system a few decades ago. The registries are collections of comprehensive, high-quality data and follow outcomes of patients with the same diagnosis or who have undergone the same medical procedure. They enable medical professionals to identify, implement and share best practices for a given diagnosis or medical procedure. This is an important tool for quality improvement and research. In 2006, transparent regional reports of healthcare quality and efficiency, known as open comparisons, were also introduced. The aim was to ensure transparency for taxpayers and patients, to promote quality improvement and cost efficiency, and to share best practice. In Almedalen this was often brought up by panelists both as a success and an area which needs to be developed to cover more diagnoses and medical procedures.
A topic of several seminars. As new reforms are being introduced and systems implemented on a regional level, factors such as accessibility for all patients – regardless of geographical position, age, gender or cultural background – need to be taken into account. How do you design a system equal for all? Is that even possible? These are complex questions which require cross regional collaborations. Sharing knowledge within this field is key to be able to offer similar healthcare systems across the country.
The role of the central government is to establish principles and guidelines, and to set the political agenda for health and medical care. Responsibility for providing healthcare is devolved to the county councils and, in some cases, municipal governments. An example of how this works in reality is the system of choice reform mentioned above. This has brought the attention to if 21 county councils and thus 21 different systems is the right way forward? An alternative solution would be a division in six county councils instead. The opinion regarding this issue differed among healthcare politicians debating the topic in Almedalen.
During the past years the reformation of information technology in health and medical care has been on top of the agenda. Changes need to be made in order to be able to provide a more modern, and accessible healthcare to patients. A national eHealth strategy has been developed, and now mHealth is being discussed on a national level as well as in the EU.