Council News

December 6, 2009

Swedes look to Nashville on health care

Swedes look to Nashville on health care
by Karin Lind-Mörnesten, president of Swecare | Dec 06, 2009

Members of the Swedish delegation were CEOs of major health-care corporations and leaders in academia and health-care organizations. Among the groups represented were ACG Nyström, an international provider of equipment for the textile industry; Uppsala Care, a service of Uppsala University Hospital that provides specialist health care for patients from around the world; the Swedish Trade Council; Jönkoping University School of Health Sciences; The Swedish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry; CapMan, a private equity company with health care as one of its focus areas; and Praktikertjänst, a cooperative of privately operated dental and health-care companies.

Swecare Foundation, a nonprofit that works to promote global relationships for Swedish health-care companies and organizations, organized the trip.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the visit for most of the Swedish delegation was the pervasive entrepreneurial spirit found in the approach that the Nashville companies, organizations and academic institutions take when it comes to health care. Because an increasing number of Swedes are embracing private health-care providers in the context of a dominant public health-care system, the visiting Swedish health-care officials were very interested in learning about the innovation and sophistication evident in the private health-care business in Nashville.

Many in the Swedish delegation, especially those who represent private equity companies, found themselves looking at health-care systems that may be a part of the future of health care in Sweden. In fact, one of the main reasons the Swedish delegation chose to come to Nashville was because the health-care industry in Nashville is known internationally as being very accomplished in establishing for-profit health-care models for business.

Sweden pays less, covers more

While there are differences in our approaches to health care, the challenges facing both Sweden and Nashville are largely the same. Both places are faced with demographics of a population of people who are living longer and have special health-care needs.

When it comes to providing health care, Sweden relies heavily on a public system, in which most hospitals and health professionals work for public institutions, most of which are supported on a county-by-county basis. Health-care outcomes in Sweden are among the highest ranking in the world, while the cost for the health care delivered to each patient is about half of what it is in the United States. While every Swedish resident is covered by the public system, some Swedes opt for an additional private health-care provider, an option that is growing in popularity.

In particular, there is much to learn from a comparison of the U.S. and Swedish systems when it comes to wellness and preventive care. Both share an interest in developing a philosophy of wellness and a number of other public health problems. But it is obvious that they often bring different approaches to the same problems.

For instance, Sweden has now managed to reverse a trend to more obesity in its population through a concerted effort of the public health-care system, employers and health-care professionals, while the problem of obesity in the United States continues to grow to unacceptable proportions. We would suggest that ideas could be gleaned from the Swedish health-care experience that could provide alternative solutions that would mitigate increasing obesity in America.

The bottom line result of the visit was that both the Swedish delegation and our counterparts in Nashville found that we have much to learn from each other. And, just as importantly, we have many mutual interests. Surely we will continue to look for ways to collaborate and inspire each other, and just as surely we expect for mutually beneficial opportunities to blossom along the way.

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