This month the NHS hosted a visit with colleagues from the Swedish health industry to share our experience of assessing apps. Karina Tellinger McNeil at SALAR gives her highlights and an insight into the work around digital health taking place in Sweden.
In Sweden we have established a vision for e-health by 2025, which intends to use the possibilities of digitalization to make it easier for our citizens to achieve a good and equal well-being, while also strengthen the resources for independence and participation in the community.
New apps and wearables are important as part of supporting the patient to become more active and responsible when dealing with their own health. At the same time, we have found that there is a need for developers to have clearer guidelines to be able to market and introduce their tools to the Swedish public health sector.
When we heard of the work being done in England we were immediately intrigued. They had come further into the work, whereas we were only starting out. So after reaching out to hear more about their experiences, we were invited to come for a visit, to meet the apps and wearables programme team at NHS Digital and learn more of their journey first hand.
As this project demands cooperation over several levels of the public sector along with industry, our trip received a great deal of interest. We invited a group of 18 people from nine different organisations, including the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, the Medical Products Agency and the Swedish eHealth Agency, to join us to learn from NHS colleagues.
After an early morning flight from Stockholm we arrived in Leeds to meet the NHS Digital team. The agenda then started with a presentation from us in the Swedish delegation about who we are, what we do and why we were looking forward to this visit. Over the next two days we received a remarkable insight in the work being done. The team, led by Hazel Jones, programme director, let us know all about their struggles, ambitions and successes. As both our countries are currently facing similar challenges in our health care systems, it was really remarkable to get the chance to just sit down and talk about how we can improve the general health of our citizens by providing access to digital tools.
The use of digital tools and products in health care is crucial in making sure we met the needs of tomorrow, but it comes with many challenges and unknown territories which we all must be brave enough to face. We were impressed by how the team have been bold enough to really take a step out into the unknown and explore new ways to help public health move forward. While always showing a strong conviction that the citizen must come first, they have developed an agile work method and process to assist the integration between the public sector and commercial market.
Through the entire visit we were chasing to keep track of time due to the high amount of questions and the interesting discussions they led to. As we departed to take the last evening flight back home we were all filled with new ideas about how to take on this upcoming challenge. It is indeed completely ideal to have international colleagues willing to share and mentor through what lies ahead.
As there will be a long road to go, we take great joy in knowing that we have a friend in NHS Digital, right across the north sea, ready to continue the great cooperation we have now started.
Karina Tellinger McNeil is a Project Owner and Strategist at the Swedish Associations of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR). SALAR is a representative organization for Sweden`s municipalities, county councils and regions, with a mission to provide our members with better conditions for local and regional self-government, as well as a vision to develop the welfare system and its services.