Working across the patient pathway to drive success
“The system started to get its basics in place back in the 1990’s,” said Claus Pedersen at OUH Odense Hospital. “It started with an understanding that there are some basic common denominators that are the foundations of any eHealth system such as referral letters, discharge letters, prescriptions and lab results.”
By focusing on these commonalities, the system was able to standardize large volumes of daily transactions. This created a critical mass in favor of the electronic management of key transactions and processes. The strategy was uniquely ‘bottom up’ in nature: the 1990s saw the emergence of a large number of small projects, which merged into a network of integrated projects. From there, and with government support, a national body was formed in 1999 as a co-operative venture between government, local authorities, public and private organizations focused on eHealth.
Today’s system brings together a user-friendly interface that adapts its presentation to suit its users’ needs. As a result, patients now enjoy a very different experience when interacting with their healthcare system. Every Danish citizen has their own personal web page, can view treatment/diagnoses from their own hospital record, book appointments with general practitioners, send secure emails to health authorities, order medication from pharmacies, monitor self-compliance with medication, and get access to local disease management systems.
The program has already resulted in significant financial savings and enabled the government to merge 15 counties into five distinct regions without any interruption to health services.
According to our interviewees, much of the success is due to a clear and strategic vision delivered by Danish health authorities, combined with strong management and the engagement of stakeholders. Denmark’s experience shows that it is possible to work across sectors and specialist fields by leveraging ‘collaborative alignment’.