Denmark tests new health IT systems

Beginning with a new hospital structure, the Danish government has initiated a programme to modernise its healthcare sector
By Dillan Yogendra
06:15 AM

Sixteen new hospitals are being constructed, including eight new super hospitals with a state-of-the-art health IT structure. US$7 billion will be spent over the next ten years. This means fewer, but more specialized hospitals and an expanded use of health IT, which will ultimately decrease the number of beds required by 20% and reduce the average duration of hospitalization from five to three days.

Keeping healthcare expenditure down with a growing aging population and an increase in chronic diseases is a challenge, but Denmark has managed just this. While US healthcare averages 17.9% of GDP, Denmark has kept its costs to 10.5% of GDP. This is in a large part due to expansion of health IT solutions throughout the sector.

The Danish Government Growth Plan leading up to 2020 has made available 12 billion DKK 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.

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 through to 2020, with several tenders available for foreign and Danish companies. Additionally, a large number of test projects have been established to help publicize 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,” said Jon Thorgaard, Director, Invest in Denmark.

Denmark is a front-runner in the use of IT in the healthcare sector. The country started adopting eHealth systems going back more than 20 years.

More recently, in 2012 Denmark became the first country to adopt the Continua Health Guidelines and Denmark is the country in the EU with the highest deployment of telehealth. Danish patients have access to their own health data, which means that they are empowered to make decisions and own their data, and national IT infrastructure enables referrals, discharge summaries, exchange of clinical data, prescriptions to be conducted online, and this all reduces the need for additional visits and repeat tests.

Danish hospitals have been co-developing innovative healthcare solutions with industry for many years, and Denmark is an excellent testing ground for new technologies and IT solutions. A current, successful public–private partnership 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.

According to Henrik Michel Kjaer, Head of Healthcare in Denmark, Cisco: “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.”