GHP August 2015

ghp August 2015 | 39 industry insight Northern Sweden Shows the World How to Implement Remote Virtual Healthcare In many countries all over the world, rural medicine is a high priority area undergoing extensive research. Sweden’s only R&D department specialising in rural medicine is situated in Northern Sweden, where just under 300,000 people now live in rural areas. This area also has the highest proportion of elderly people and the highest dependency ratio. If this area con- tinues to develop as is currently the case, research- ers expect there to be more people of non-working age in Sweden’s rural municipalities than people of working age by the early 2030s. This is a develop- ment which will significantly increase and alter the need for healthcare and medical services, but also the chances of recruiting well-trained care personnel. Against this background, NHI has joined forces with regions and municipalities in Northern Sweden to support a collective medical services policy plan and an ambition with the aim of becoming world leaders in the field of future health and social care in rural areas. This ambition includes continued develop- ment of the virtual health rooms in cooperation with municipal healthcare services. The aim is to have at least 20 or so similar virtual health rooms in the four northernmost counties within two years. A good testbed arena The inland municipalities in Northern Sweden have a temporal advantage on account of the skewed age structure of the population, where between 25 and 30 per cent of residents are over the age of 65. In some municipalities, more than 10 per cent of the population is over the age of 80. “In this respect, we are approximately 25 years ahead of the rest of the world. In inland areas in Northern Sweden, there- fore, we have a unique opportunity right now to test medical technology products, working methods and processes of various types on an existing population with an age structure which will be reality in many countries in 25 years’ time. This demographic ad- vantage, combined with one of the best developed, high-quality broadband networks in the world and cohesive, high-quality patient case note systems, provides outstanding opportunities to test innovative new solutions in the care and medical services sec- tor,” says Peter Berggren, Head of the research or- ganisation GMC (Centre of Rural Medicine) and one of the founders of NHI (Nordic Health Innovation). “Our ambition is for Northern Sweden to provide a good testbed arena for rural medicine and dis- tance-spanning methods,” he adds. “We have to turn our demographic lead to our advantage. We are aiming to devise hot products and services which will help us to live longer, healthier lives at home, while the same time aiming to provide care in people’s homes to a greater extent.” Focusing on virtual health rooms The expansion of virtual health rooms is one of the most important initiatives in Northern Sweden relating to rural medicine. At present, a virtual health room is a customised, unstaffed health room with the aim of staying open 24 hours a day for recipients of care in rural areas. It will also be possible to install the virtual health rooms of the future in people’s own homes or on their mobiles. If necessary, doctors will be able to connect to these rooms via video links, and the rooms will be equipped with a range of devices. All local residents will be able to go into one of these rooms and check their blood pressure and take blood, blood sugar and warfarin samples. These devices will be interlinked with district medical of- ficers’ case note systems and medical services case note systems via a central server. Public stakeholders in Northern Sweden have joined forces with Nordic Health Innovation (NHI) to support a collective ambition with the aim of becoming world leaders in the field of future health and social care in rural areas. This plan includes an extensive initiative relating to virtual health rooms in cooperation with municipal healthcare services. Three such health rooms have already been established, and more are in the pipeline. “This will be a self-service facility where people can easily screen themselves and make initial contact with a doctor,” says Peter Berggren of NHI. Award-winning founders Nordic Health Innovation (NHI), a company with 20 years’ practical experience of remote technology and virtual healthcare in extremely rural areas and which has been developed in close cooperation with the research organisation GMC (Glesbygdsmedicinskt Centrum, the Rural Medicine Center) in Storuman, is responsible for the launch of the virtual health rooms. The founders of NHI are brothers Dr Peter Berggren and Jonas Berggren. Last year, Peter Berggren won the Guldskapellen Swedish Medical Care Innovator of the Year award for “the courage to try new ways of operating and organising primary care through innovative approaches, new technology and a broader perspective on the living conditions of people in rural areas”. That same year, Jonas Berg- gren won the prestigious Swedish Stora Produktivi- tetspriset Award in his capacity as CEO of the rapidly growing SSG (Standard Solutions Group). NHI offers flexible, cost-effective and standardised virtual health rooms to public and private custom- ers with the aim of helping to improve quality of life and increase accessibility even for citizens living in extremely rural areas who are a long way away from doctors and other medical care specialists. NHI’s health rooms To date, NHI has built up virtual health rooms in the villages of Slussfors and Gällö in Northern Sweden. The next health room is planned to open in the village of Stugun in the autumn. “For us, these virtual health rooms are a deliberate strategic initiative. With distance-spanning methods, we can ensure that we