The health and care system in Norway is experiencing a number of pressures that look very familiar to those of us working in the sector in the UK:

  • An aging population, with the percentage of the population over 67 years old is increasing from 15% in 2019 to over 21% by 2050;
  • Increasing numbers of adults with multiple health conditions and children with more acute mental health and special educational needs;
  • Growing vacancy rates in the health and care workforce, with a projected workforce shortage of 57,000 staff by 2035.

Norway launched its National Telehealthcare Programme in 2014, supporting municipalities to redesign health and care services integrating technology so that it becomes the “new normal” to experience services that are enabled by technology. The programme has facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing between municipalities, and here we share some of the key learnings with ADASS members:

  1. Designing health and care services around the needs of the citizen achieves better results and costs less. For example, an app was developed for children with special needs to quickly and easily request support such as domiciliary care. The result was that most children with the app requested support less frequently than the previous service provision.
  2. Using technology can enable health and care services to be delivered safely across large geographical areas, with fewer resources targeted to provide a more responsive service. For example, it is common for community nurses to monitor for signs of life (movement and heat) using cameras in citizens’ bedrooms (within strict regulations and limits) and send rapid support to anyone that there is a concern for. This has been found to be significantly less intrusive for most citizens and enables staff in short supply to be targeted where they can have the greatest impact.
  3. National support is an effective way of ensuring that technology is adopted at an appropriate pace. In Norway this has involved changing policies, funding that ensures the necessary infrastructure is in place, toolkits are available, and collaboration is facilitated. The Norwegian Telehealthcare Programme has resulted in an acceleration of this trend, with 80% of municipalities on track to have a comprehensive and integrated telehealthcare offer by 2020.

What are the implications for technology enabled care in the UK? Are there other examples of international practice that we should be learning from? 

Emily George is a public services and adult social care expert at PA Consulting in the UK and Grete Kvernland-Berg is a public services expert at PA Consulting in Norway.

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