Keeping health care expenditure down in in times with growing, aging populations and an increase in chronic diseases is a universal challenge, but Denmark has managed to do that. While US healthcare spends 17.9% of the GDP on average, Denmark has kept its cost at 10.5% of GDP. This is in large part due to an expansion of health IT solutions throughout the sector.
Now, the Danish government has initiated the modernization of its healthcare sector, beginning with a new hospital structure. Denmark is constructing 16 new hospitals, including 8 new super hospitals with a state-of-the-art health IT structure. $7 billion will be spent over the next 10 years. This means fewer, more specialized hospitals with an expanded use of health IT, which will ultimately reduce the number of beds by 20% and shorten the average length of hospitalization from five to three days.
The Danish Government Growth Plan leading up to 2020 has to free up USD 2.2 billion for core welfare services and is expected to bring substantial changes to the classical idea of healthcare provided primarily through hospitalization. Telehealth is seen as a tool to increase the quality of care for its populations while lowering public spending costs.
Large multinationals help modernize the Danish healthcare system
In connection with the overall efforts to boost the current Health IT system, thus maintaining Denmark’s role as a world leader in the field, the Danish government has initiated a number of large-scale telehealth projects running until 2020, with several tenders up for bid for foreign and Danish companies. Additionally, a large number of test projects are established to help disseminate telehealth among patients in Denmark with open innovation being a key source of development.
- “The Danish government initiatives on healthcare are a great opportunity for American companies to test new solutions and explore new markets. In Invest in Denmark we are happy to help the innovative American companies who have realized the opportunities arising from this modernization process of the Danish healthcare system.” – Jon Thorgaard, Director, Invest in Denmark North America.
US company, Epic, has seized this opportunity and won a public tender of USD 1 billion for the creation of a health IT platform in two major Danish regions in collaboration with the Danish company, NNIT, providing full access to all Epic’s new technologies.
For Epic, the project in Denmark is one of its largest implementations, covering more than 20 hospitals with 44,000 concurrent users. In total the system will cover more than 2.5 million patients in Denmark, or 44% of the Danish population. The platform is expected to bring significant improvements for the Danish patients by reducing redundancy and improving communications.
Denmark leading health IT implementation
Denmark is a front-runner in the use of IT in the healthcare sector. Going back more than 20 years Denmark started adopting eHealth systems. In 2012 Denmark was the first country in the world to adopt the Continua Design Guidelines to ensure interoperability of devices in the healthcare sector. Being the country in the EU with the highest deployment of telehealth, Danish patients can already be cared for in their homes to some degree. Denmark is also aiming to create better consistency within the national Health IT framework, reducing 26 different EHR systems to three with the implementation of a number of new solutions.
IT investments have already brought savings in Denmark. At the new super hospital in Odense the average stay in hospital is 2.9 days (EU average of ~7 days) and re-admission rates are in some cases down by more than 50%.
It has also been patient centric. Danish patients have access to own health data through Sundhed.dk, which means that they are empowered to make decisions and own their data through this single access point to healthcare services, general and disease-specific information, national guidelines, etc. National IT infrastructure allows for referrals, discharge summaries, exchange of clinical data, prescriptions, teleradiology services etc. all to be done online, reducing the need for additional visits and repeat tests.
Bringing their Danish solutions to export markets
Danish hospitals have been co-developing innovative healthcare solutions with the industry for many years. The public authorities are open to engaging in public-private partnerships to resolve the healthcare challenges and work towards new solutions that improve the quality of care and delivery efficiency. With a homogeneous and tech savvy population, Denmark is an excellent testing ground for new technologies and IT solutions. One concrete example is “Living Lab Denmark” where Danish and international companies test new products in the home of elderly citizens and in care centers throughout the 22 municipalities in the Region of Southern Denmark, in collaboration with citizens and health care professionals.
US tech company Cisco is heavily engaged with Danish regional governments and the Danish healthcare sector in providing network infrastructures and communications platforms.
However, recently the networking company has also engaged into innovative public-private solution projects in Denmark with the objective of connecting and facilitating patient centric remote care. This could be between clinicians in hospitals and patients in their homes with high quality video communication or remote expertise sharing and mentoring between multiple locations of professional personnel. These engagements in Denmark allow Cisco to work closely with its partners and customers on the deployment of its solutions and their applicability in specific markets.
- “Doing public-private partnerships in Denmark is proving to be an exciting venture for us. Not only are we developing advanced connectivity solutions for the Danish Healthcare market, we also see this having replication potential in other European markets. Denmark’s Healthcare is a visionary and prominent player within health technology innovation and adoption, which makes it an ideal place for us to engage and explore the creation of best practice solutions leveraging our technologies.” – Henrik Michel Kjaer, Head of Healthcare, Cisco Denmark.
While advantageous for the Danish healthcare system, the opportunities created for the multinationals in the Danish market also provide companies with expansion opportunities in other European markets as well as for their Danish partners.