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The Swedish Solution to a Global Challenge

Iris Öhrn is Investment advisor for life science & healthcare at Business Region Goteborg. With a combined scientific and business background, She has over 15 years of international experience of working with governmental organizations, entrepreneurs, SMEs and multinational companies in matters going from intellectual property, regulation, sales and foreign direct investments.


When companies, governments, universities and healthcare institutions work in tandem to push the frontiers of knowledge, they become a powerful engine to find innovative solutions to major social problems including health.The article talks about the healthcare scenario in Sweden and how the country is reforming its healthcare system to benefit its people.


Across Europe the rising cost of healthcare,caused among other things by the ageing of the population and the parallel rise in chronic illness; has made policymakers support the development of more effective preventive measures and early diagnosis products. At the same time, patients have started to take more responsibility for their own health, treatment and care, thus becoming a major cost driver of the healthcare system.

Innovation within material sciences, genetics, biotechnology and computational information has escalated in recent years, bringing significantly improved chances of

surviving disease. In Europe and especially in Sweden, patient-centered care, evidence-based care, and early detection are dictating the path to follow for designing the healthcare of the future.

Sweden spends about 11% of its GDP on health care and nearly 80% of it is publicly financed. Healthcare expenditure as percentage of GDP is higher in Sweden compared to many countries of similar or larger size.

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The following are some of the major innovations and reforms introduced during the last years for containing costs.

• A shift from hospital inpatient care towards outpatient care at hospitals and primary care facilities

• More choice of provider, competition and privatization to support the development of primary care

• Regionalization of health care services including mergers between county councils

• Privatization of the pharmacy sector

• Continued specialization and concentration of services within the hospital sector

• National reforms for shortening waiting times for services

• Cost-effectiveness and social perspective are becoming key indicators for reimbursement.

Health economics is a priority for the 21 county councils and 290 municipalities in charge of health provision in Sweden. Some of the latest initiatives include:

• New mechanisms to support evidence-based and cost–effective vertical priorities

• Health outcomes and benefits from the patient perspective

• Process orientation

• New valid performance indicators

• Increase abilities to monitor performance on a regular basis by investments in health quality registers and new information technology

Cost-effective methods for early diagnosis and treatment can anticipate future societal costs

The Swedish Cardiopulmonary Bioimage Study (Scapis)

The Swedish CardioPulmonary BioImage Study, one of the largest studies of its kind in Sweden, is a major joint national effort to reduce mortality and morbidityfrom cardiovascular disease (CVD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and relatedmetabolic disorders, all of which are important issues for public health. A Swedish cohort of 30,000 men and women aged 50-64 years are characterized with help of advance imaging techniques (Ultrasounds, MRI, Computer tomography, 3D ECG, etc.) together with information obtained by proteomics, metabolomics and genomics.

A comprehensive pilot study with over 1000 patients were completed at the

Sahlgrenska University Hospital in West Swedenin 2012 and recruitment to the nationwide multicenter study is ongoing.

Centre for imaging and intervention at Sahlgrenska University Hospital

In 2015, a new centre for imaging and intervention opened at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Northern Europe.

The center is unique among the Nordic imaging centres in that it was initiated by a hospital, rather than by academia. The regional health authorities have recognized that advanced imaging and intervention are critical not only to the provision of the best healthcare possible but also to making the care cost-effective. The newly built 21 000sqm-center houses Hi-tech operating rooms with advanced imaging equipment such as gamma and PET cameras, X-rays, computed tomography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance.

Academy, healthcare, county council and Industry are already collaborating in a model in which technology development and transfer can evolve from the traditional ‘pull’ and ‘push’ model to an integrated process in which problems and solutions are addressed on a day-to-day basis.

The use of microwave techniques for the treatment of hyperthermia of deep seated cancer tumours; breast cancer detection with microwave tomographyorstroke diagnostics are some of the cross-disciplinary collaborations that have resulted of this long-term strategic triple helix collaboration.

Smart textiles with medical applications

Companies, universities and research centers in western Sweden have been collaborating for almost a decade now around the design, development and production of the next generation of textile products.With Smart textiles, a large part of the health monitoring can be done from home in the future. One example is a regular shirt with integrated sensors that can be used to measure breathing and heart activity and thereby reducing the number of visits to the hospital. Textile based sensors made of conductive fibres incorporated in clothing to record electrical activity from the heart (ECG), brain (EEG), or muscles (EMG), might become part of the future health care of patients suffering from sleep apnea, breathing difficulties or stress-related conditions.

When companies, governments, universities and healthcare institutions work in tandem to push the frontiers of knowledge, they become a powerful engine to find innovative solutions to major social problems including health.However, product innovation, value networks and ecosystems alone will not be enough. How we innovate and connect with customers and patients is crucial. We need to involve patients and patient organizations in the innovation process and decision-making. We need to take the time to see the patient in all aspects of his life. It might be the best alternative for both providing more quality care and at the same reducing the spiralling healthcare costs.


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