Trends in eHealth from Almedalen 2023
For those of you who missed Almedalen this year, or didn't have time to visit all the interesting seminars, here is a look at what was discussed, and not discussed, in health care.
What AI is, but not what AI can do
AI was included in almost every lecture in Almedalen. AI was really one of the real "hypes" of the year. However, the discussions were 99% around what AI is, how it will affect us, and the opportunities and risks with AI for that particular profession or area. Very few concrete AI examples from the business were shown. We hope they come next year.
AI to reduce administration
So far, AI in healthcare has mostly been about detecting and predicting various disease states, e.g., cancer on X-rays. There were clear signs that AI is now also beginning to be seen as a solution outside the purely medical, i.e., reducing administration. And there is great potential here. The prediction of heart problems becoming 2% better is good for the patient but does not solve the big healthcare problem. If, on the other hand, we can get AI to automate and manage the administration, then there is a real chance that AI can help eliminate care queues, staff shortages, and overworked care staff.
Speaking of automation, the word began appearing more often in the care seminars. We addressed automation as a bubble last year, and the trend is clear; although it is not boiling among the bubbles but a slow simmer, automation was mentioned as a solution to both care queues and administration. Examples described were removing the manual entry of information already in the system or having the system automatically take patients through their care process with everything from appointment bookings to reminders. It is important for healthcare to show that automation can take place in an ethically correct way and, at the same time, give healthcare staff and patients time to get used to it.
Digitization is not about if, but how
In previous years, digitization has often been questioned, and of course, solutions are still needed for those who cannot be digital. But this year, there was more focus going forward on how the digitization will take place and, perhaps specifically, who will lead it. "More doctors as managers in care" has been heard for several years. This was supplemented with "doctors must be involved in driving digitalization". Common was that the questions were more about how the potential should be utilized and realized. How can a doctor handle 10 patients instead of 1? How do we increase efficiency by 200% instead of 2%?
More resources are not the only solution to healthcare's problems
More and more mentioned that it may not be more care places, more staff, and increased financial resources that solve the big problems in care. When leading people from the National Board of Health and Welfare, hospitals, doctors, and healthcare unions unanimously say that it is impossible to recruit all the people needed in healthcare today, there are neither enough people nor enough money, then perhaps a shift is underway. The solution that was discussed was that we must dare to work in new ways and use the technology that is available ethically and efficiently.
Local health care - but what does that really mean?
Local health care was addressed at many seminars, but the definition was very diffuse. From "local health care can mean anything" to "I have the patient close to me in my conversation". Several described local health care as that the care is moved to the patient's home, or that the care is where the patient is situated - not where the care decided it should be. We'll see if someone dares to present a definition for next year...
The health of the future is data-driven – but will the regulations help or hurt?
The statement has been made before: "It is unethical not to use the data that we have in the care systems today". But at the same time, there are many challenges with healthcare data in particular. GDPR and EHDS, AI-act, MDR, and IVDR (medical device regulations), as well as patients' increased reluctance to share their data, were some problem areas that were mentioned. Many were worried that the expanded regulations would in reality be a brake on healthcare development both in Sweden and the EU.
NOT talked about at Almedalen this year
Vision eHealth 2025
Few talked about the Swedish Government's Vision eHealth 2025, not this year either. We probably expected some kind of summary of how things are going on the road to 2025; after all, there are still only 2 years left, and what you think will be achieved in 2025. Feels a bit like they wanted to bury the vision. Is it because the vision is irrelevant, or do they realize you will not reach it?
"By 2025, Sweden must be the best in the world at using the possibilities of digitization and e-health to make it easier for people to achieve good and equal health and welfare as well as develop and strengthen their own resources for greater independence and participation in community life."
What do you think we will have achieved in 2 years?
In previous years, patient associations and elite patients have often been part of panels. This year it was not as frequent, and above all, the peak patients seem to have disappeared. In some seminars, the moderator even had to remind the panelists that care was actually for the patients, not just for the care itself, its employees, politicians, and officials.
Healthcare as a Community Service
When healthcare is increasingly seen as one of many services that citizens use in society, at least in the eyes of citizens, few people made this comparison, which surprised us a little. Our patients themselves book their hairdresser and time to get a haircut; they book a car mechanic and time to service the car; they get goods delivered to their home instead of going out to pick them up at the store; they make their declaration by answering an SMS, they manage all their banking transactions completely digitally. So, what can healthcare learn from this? And what demands will the patients place in the near future on their community service care?