The Benefits of Distance Care Have Never Been Clearer
With the rising spread of virus across the country, healthcare is facing an extremely critical situation. As Lund researchers, Leif Dahlberg and Håkan Nero, wrote in Altinget on 19th March, "We believe that it is high time that authorities and decision makers seize the opportunities that remote care already offers today - and that they already create a good basis for further development. There will be a tomorrow, where we will have the care system we deserve – that is, the one we choose to build today."
Reports are coming from all directions on the critical situation healthcare is facing. Johan Styrud, chairman of the Stockholm Medical Association and chief physician at Danderyds hospital, has spoken about the critical situation in healthcare in connection with the increased number of people who have fallen ill with COVID-19. The situation is described as chaotic, where healthcare institutions have basically cancelled all other activities, such as operations and other health centre activities, in order to be able to effectively prioritise treatment for COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, a way forward is being sought to test more COVID-19 staff, to ensure that they do not carry and spread the infection to the very people they are trying to save. Elderly people are self-isolating in their homes, and all citizens should preferably avoid being exposed to infection and risky activities that can lead to injuries and medical visits – there are simply not enough resources for everyone.
Digital care chains enable care and diagnoses without physical meetings, which is beneficial both for caregivers who can work with patients from home, and for patients who want to avoid crowds and visits to healthcare establishments. In this way, risk groups and healthcare personnel are not exposed to infection. Healthcare staff who currently are not allowed to go to work with mild cold symptoms, can continue to work remotely and provide help to patients through digital care meetings.
In recent weeks, we have seen a doubling of digital healthcare visits for temporary acute primary care disorders, when patients have not been able to get through to 1177 or the health centre. Infections like tonsillitis, STDs and urinary tract infections do not take into account the coronavirus crisis, but need to be diagnosed and treated just as before. The patient can buy self-tests at the pharmacy or have them sent home to him by healthcare providers who also handle infection tracking. Patients already included in digital treatment programs for, for example, mental illness or asthma, can continue their treatments regardless of how hard-pressed the physical care is. With an increasing number of connected sensors, patients with life-long illnesses can also monitor their measured values together with remote doctors, who adjust dosage and treatment recommendations.
Healthcare at a distance can replace large portions of the estimated 40 million physical visits that occur in primary care each year. As the regions now realise the benefits, they are accelerating their own digitalisation to meet the citizens' desire to be able to access care over the internet. This newly gained insight should, we believe, lead to improved conditions for private healthcare contractors to continue to develop new solutions, that will benefit society and the taxpayer, and inspire an outdated healthcare system to transform.
We urge politicians to view the situation in which we all find ourselves today as an excellent example of how distance care is not only an opportunity, but a necessity for Sweden's citizens to be able to access care, today and tomorrow. It is, during this crisis, even more relevant to bear this in mind so that together we can build tomorrow's healthcare the way we want it to be, not as it has always been.
Anne Kihlgren, CEO Dynamic Code
Daniel Persson, Director of Innovation My Doctor