GHP September 2015

ghp September 2015 | 17 innovation and technology E-health – The Future of Healthcare Norrbotten County covers 25% of Sweden’s surface and approximately 250 000 inhabitants reside here (about 3% of Sweden’s population), which makes it a large and sparsely populated area. As many other regions in Europe, Norrbotten is undergoing dramatic demographic changes. In the next ten years Norrbotten foresees an increase of residents between the ages of 65-79 by 50%, from 42 000 to 63 000 in addition to its share of elderly being already 3% higher than the Swedish average. While many would view this as a significant problem, we consider it an exceptional opportunity for future growth. By taking advantage of our unique geography and demographic composition and utilizing our regions strong academic presence, thriving industries and tech savvy population we can develop inventive healthcare concepts, improving our health and expand the inno- vation capacity in Norrbotten. Even though we today have 20 years of experience in eHealth and distance spanning technology, a lot of the development has been based on personal initiatives and was implemented only in smaller scale. To address this lack of a distinct and focused direction, Norrbotten has worked diligently to develop concise strategies for eHealth and shape strong relations between health- care, business, academia, political parties and our cit- izens to create an environment where Norrbotten have been able to establish itself as a leader in eHealth. eHealth is also question of democracy and equali- ty, says Agneta Granström vice Chair of the County Councils Executive Committee with a special interest in eHealth issues. She believes that when it comes to healthcare, public services and infrastructure such as broadband and mobile service, users should be able to expect the same access no matter if you live in urban or rural environment. eHealth today In recent years eHealth in Norrbotten has grown into a much more structured endeavor and it is now an ex- pressed priority starting from EU, national and regional strategies down to local action plans and the day to day operations. It is possible see it impacting not only in policies and regulations but also in the quality of life for every patient who benefits from these new ways of providing healthcare. For example, the strategy for distance spanning healthcare in Norrbotten has outlined clear paths to transition from connecting only different healthcare units towards also enable patients to connect from home and to their healthcare contacts for follow ups, health advice or treatments. The results of this increased focus is now very visible in the way day-to-day healthcare is being carried out in every hospital, healthcare center, home care and retirement home in the region. For Norrbotten to maintain a leadership in eHealth, the Norrbotten County Council has reorganized and formed an interdisciplinary R&D unit with expertise in innovation management, continuous improvements, service development, IT, e-learning, transnational col- laboration and of course a diverse group of healthcare professionals to work with eHealth on a strategic level and create the necessary conditions that allows the organization to succeed. We have also partnered with Luleå University of technology to create the Centre for Innovation and eHealth (EIC). It is a center of excellence in the areas of health and wellbeing, where information and communication technology (ICT) is used to innovative new eHealth solutions. The EIC has three main focus areas: - Collaboration between healthcare providers, patients/ consumers and their close relatives - Remote communications and consultation - Availability of healthcare information for patients and citizens Norrbotten County Council has a long tradition of carrying out projects and initiatives that increase the cooperation between the council, the municipalities, national level initiatives and other European regions in order to learn from others and ensure that our knowledge and innovations not stays in Norrbotten, but is shared with the rest of Sweden, Europe and the world. Some of the more prominent examples are: COGKNOW, Cross-border Healthcare in Torne Valley (Sweden/ Finland), e-Home HealthCare at North Calotte, MobiHealth, epSOS – Smart Open Services for European Patients , MOMENTUM, Renewing Health, FIA, Future Innovative Work Practices in healthcare in the home, RTF-Regional Telemedicine Forum, RemoDem and STAR - Skills Training and Re-skilling for Carers of People with Dementia. Currently we have joined forces with the EIC, the Norwegian Center for integrated care and Telemedicine, the Society of local Authorities in Norrbotten, the University of Stirling and the National Health Service in the Shetland and Western Isles in a project called RemoAge. This collab- oration is co-funded by the European Union’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, and will tackle the increasing challenges limited personnel and financial resources has brought to supporting frail older people living in the our respective regions remote and sparsely populated areas. The Partnership has a firm belief that we can address some of these issues through in- novative use of new technology and by increasing the community involvement throughout the care process. For example the project will develop and implement services utilizing distance spanning technology, GPS positioning, e-learning and smart homes, but also make broader initiatives like adapting communities to better suit the needs of our older citizens.’