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Corona crisis spurs e-health boom

June 11, 2020
By The Explorer

A digital transformation is taking place in the healthcare sector. These solutions from Norway are making patients more secure, while improving treatment.

“The coronavirus pandemic has clearly boosted the use of digital healthcare tools. More and more people are discovering that these tools can make a patient feel well cared for while maintaining their personal privacy,” says Trine Radmann.

Radmann is Head of International Affairs at Norway Health Tech, a leading Norwegian health tech cluster with some 280 member companies. Although digitalisation of the healthcare sector is time-consuming and resource-intensive, she sees tremendous gains to be made in the long run.

The crisis has highlighted how useful it is to have access to a digital toolbox.

Trine Radmann, Norway Health Tech

German corona hospital built with Norwegian competency tool

Norwegian Dossier Solutions has seen the digitalisation of hospitals skyrocket. The company provides software that gathers all competency and learning activities for healthcare personnel in a single hub.

“In hospitals, most employees need continuous training, certification and courses to be able to do their jobs,” says Kari Hubner, Head of Sales Nordics at Dossier Solutions.

However, without the right tools, it is not easy to keep track of who is qualified to do what in a large hospital.

“Most e-learning solutions only cover a portion of a hospital’s needs. Competency information is therefore stored in Excel worksheets and loose-leaf binders that must be updated manually. The binders can even fill an entire room,” Hubner says.

With Dossier’s system, all relevant information is consolidated in one place. This means that hospital staff and management save valuable time, and the system contributes to improved patient safety and better quality in treatment.

“Due to the coronavirus, we have more to do than ever. It is a novel virus that we know little about. Healthcare professionals must stay on top of new practices for infection control – the practices change from day to day. Given the situation, many hospitals see the need for a learning system that can be updated quickly,” she explains.

At the end of March, Dossier was hired to help to establish a temporary coronavirus hospital in Hannover, Germany.

“We had to create a training plan for thousands of personnel with varying qualifications and under uncertain hygiene requirements, all from scratch. That was really a challenge,” says Iris Meyenburg-Altwarg, former Managing Director of Nursing at the Hannover Medical School.

Meyenburg-Altwarg was a key member of the team who rolled up their sleeves and built an acute hospital in record time. Fortunately, there was no need to use it. But thanks in part to Dossier, preparedness was in place in case the crisis escalated.

“My impression is that the software works very well. The general feedback is that it’s easy and intuitive to use. As a manager, it’s important to have a simple and visual representation of who is at what level. You don’t have time to read 20 pages about every employee,” she says.

Confrere for virtual house calls

What if you have a doctor’s appointment, but you cannot – or do not want to – visit your GP? Norwegian Confrere offers a video calling tool that ensures secure communication between physician and patient.

“It’s easy to use. The patient receives a text with a link and then they’re logged on. We don’t have to be tech support. Everyone, even 80-year-olds, can manage it on their own,” says Dr Berit Bartnes at Nardosletta medical centre.

A GP for over 20 years, Dr Bartnes has used the tool for well over a year.

“Confrere has been particularly useful during the coronavirus crisis. In that respect it was good that we had already been using it.”

Like many other physicians, Dr Bartnes found that patients were fearful of getting infected. But this did not imply that fewer people needed help.

“We experienced a significant increase in calls to our office at the beginning of the pandemic. Many people had questions and wanted to speak to their GP. That made it extra useful to have the Confrere platform, which allowed us to hold consultations without people showing up at the doctor’s office.”

“There was a very clear drop in visits to our office. It was therefore very important to have a platform to meet patients who were scared to travel for a doctor’s appointment,” she says.

According to Dag-Inge Aas, Chief Technology Officer at Confrere, his company has been – unsurprisingly – very busy lately.

“Before, only one of 20 GP offices in Norway used Confrere. Now over half of all GPs are active users,” he says.

“When the pandemic hit, it quickly escalated into an all-hands-on-deck situation for us. But it was a good feeling to know that we could offer concrete help during the crisis.”

Although video appointments will not replace physical visits to the doctor’s office, Aas believes that they will become part of the new normal once the pandemic is over.

“Right now, about 15 per cent of all consultations in Norway take place by video. That’s five times more than before the crisis hit. We think, realistically, that 10 per cent of doctor’s visits will be digital once the pandemic is over.”

Secure, effective patient follow-up with CheckWare

Norwegian CheckWare offers a digital solution that allows patients to report on their health status from the comfort of their home. CheckWare is used by hospitals, clinics and municipalities to support patients, measure treatment results, and offer web-based treatment programmes.

“CheckWare ensures that important questions are posed and answers are incorporated into treatment. It gives the treatment provider better insight into what is most important to the patient and set priorities accordingly,” says Per Arne Holman.

Holman is Quality Manager at Lovisenberg Diaconal Hospital in Oslo, where CheckWare is used as an integrated part of psychological and psychiatric treatment.

“CheckWare also gives us data for the quality registry we have developed. A large amount of data on many patients over time enables us to study how the way we are organised affects treatment,” says Holman.

Heidi Blengsli Aabelm CEO of CheckWare, says that the solution is used in hospitals and polyclinics, in psychiatry, drug treatment, rehabilitation, habilitation and somatics. More than 90 per cent of psychiatry and drug treatment facilities in Norway have access to CheckWare, and in the UK several NHS Trusts are CheckWare customers.

In addition to providing better patient follow-up, CheckWare eliminates unnecessary doctor’s visits. That has been particularly useful during the coronavirus pandemic.

“When the coronavirus pandemic hit, CheckWare became more important than ever in safeguarding patients without them having to meet up in person. If there’s no need for further follow-up, the patient doesn’t have to go to the doctor,” Aabel explains.

She believes that the pandemic has given digitalisation in the healthcare sector a big boost.

“With corona, we saw how important digital healthcare services are for society as a whole. Many of these solutions are now ‘need to have’, rather than ‘nice to have’,” she says

Radmann from Norway Health Tech agrees that the digital solutions are here to stay.

“I think that the increased use of technology we have seen during the pandemic will continue. Digital infrastructure will yield long-term advantages like higher-quality treatment and care and better health for each dollar we invest,” she concludes.