This morning, our eyes and ears are glued to the young and enthusiastic Sofia Widén from ACCESS Health Sweden, part of the ACCESS Health International network.
ACCESS Health International, cofounded seven years ago by a young Swedish woman living in India, is an organization that dissects and rebuilds healthcare systems— analyzing them, improving weaknesses, and amplifying strengths. This grassroots model nonprofit serves the function of ideas and knowledge transfer, both nationally and internationally.
“Working with both public and private healthcare providers, and advising policy makers, we want to improve access to high quality affordable healthcare and provide a ‘manual’ for policymakers in Sweden and elsewhere,” explains Sofia.
Sofia began her travels at the age of 16, when she moved to Tasmania for a year. She later moved to the United States, where she got her degree from the University of Richmond, Virginia, and then worked within politics in Washington, DC. Further educational pursuits brought her back to Europe, specifically to the University of Edinburgh, where she obtained a Master’s degree in Economics and Politics. A breakthrough in her career occurred in August 2014, when she met the founder of ACCESS Health International and ended up joining the team at ACCESS Health Sweden. As of December 2014, we feel lucky we get to see her at Impact Hub almost every day!
What Can Be Improved in the Swedish Healthcare System?
According to Sofia, whose primary focus is on the elderly with multiple diseases, the Swedish healthcare system is good at offering specialized healthcare, but it can improve when it comes to the complex integration of different specialists, healthcare providers, and homecare services, among other things.
“The current healthcare system can be difficult to navigate, especially for the elderly who receive multiple treatments. It might take days for information to be transferred from a hospital to a homecare provider. We need an integrated model to improve this,” says Sofia.
Elderly in need of immediate care usually turn to emergency rooms, where they are often left waiting for several hours since their needs are not as urgent as, for example, a car accident injury.
The Solution? According to Sofia,“we need to rethink what a hospital is. In the future, we will deliver more treatments at home instead.”
An example of one of Sweden’s more admirable healthcare practices, which has the potential to expand to other regions, is Uppsala’s Mobile Emergency Team for the Elderly.
A mobile emergency team, including a doctor, two nurses, and equipment are brought directly to the patient’s home. This solution answers the elderly’s needs better and, although it incurs an initial cost, already with three patients visited a day it becomes a more cost effective solution. Moreover, elderly are often happy to have the doctor visit them at home, which saves them the hassel of travel and waiting long hours in the emergency room.“The patients love it, and their relatives feel safe. We need to put individuals the center of the healthcare system,” Sofia says.
Leadership and Determination Showing the Way Forward
In conclusion, Sofia points out that there isn’t necessarily a big need for the total overhaul and reinvention of current systems. “We have the knowledge and technology, what we need is leadership and determination to implement it,” she says. We need to look up to role models like the Mobile Emergency Team in Uppsala, and investigate how we can scale those up.
As the ensuing discussion Sofia’s inspired carries on for another hour, it becomes evident that she has managed to engage every one of her listeners in this intense topic. Afterwards, we all disperse into our coworking space to finish up the last day of the week, our minds enriched by insights from yet another inspirational mission in social entrepreneurship.