The Norwegian and Swedish health agencies, the Norwegian research association MAGIC and the Finnish medical association Duodecim are cooperating to develop Nordic clinical practice guidelines openly available through APIs.
Medical conditions can be hard to diagnose. The same goes for correct treatment measures. When doctors face these uncertainties, they refer to clinical practice guidelines for advice and recommendations. These guidelines are systematically developed and based on the best currently available evidence.
We could by a conservative estimate have saved NOK 2,5 million in each country, making every fourth guideline free.– Morten Græsli, Norwegian Directorate of Health
However, continuously developing such guidelines is a tedious job that requires constant evaluation of new research within various fields of medicine. And it is expensive. Experiences from Norway indicate that a single guideline typically costs in the range of NOK 2 – 4 million.
The Nordic Innovation funded project Ecosystem for Nordic Clinical Practice Guidelines is therefore now looking at good and effective models for Nordic cooperation around development and maintenance of such guidelines.
Every fourth guideline free
The aim is to develop Nordic clinical practice guidelines more efficiently both through cooperation and work sharing and through use of common infrastructure. If the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare need a guideline in an area where the Norwegian Directorate of Health has a recently updated guideline, such cooperation and an infrastructure could allow the Swedes to share and adopt the Norwegian guideline much more easily than has been done historically.
“That would both save time, money and assure quality”, explains project leader Morten Græsli from the Norwegian Directorate of Health. “A recent case where Norwegian and Swedish authorities partly cooperated on new dementia guidelines showed that each country spent NOK 10 million on the development. With a tight cooperation sharing the workload avoiding redundancy in work and data entry, we could by a conservative estimate have saved NOK 2,5 million in each country, making every fourth guideline free”, argues Græsli.
Opening up the data
In addition to the Nordic infrastructure, the project is also investigating the possibility to open the data through APIs. This would allow other actors to access the guideline databases and develop new solutions and business opportunities based on guideline content. The Norwegian Mapping Authorities did the same with great success.
Since the Nordic countries are in various stages of digitalisation and using different technical platforms, the project has so far mostly focussed on processes and methods for sharing work and content when developing clinical guidelines.
Græsli and his project partners are nevertheless certain of the potential for creating a common Nordic infrastructure for clinical guidelines.
“Although there are some differences between how the Nordic countries handle clinical guidelines, there is definitely an untapped potential for cooperation and division of labour that can both save money and enhance the quality of the guidelines”, says Græsli.
Developing a Nordic ecosystem for health innovation
The project is one of the seven projects funded under the Innovative Nordic Health and Welfare Solutions call that was launched in 2014. The aim of the call was to unite and strengthen efforts across the Nordics to develop a Nordic ecosystem for health innovation and create opportunities for Nordic businesses through a closer connection between developers, demanders and test environments.
The call is part of the lighthouse project Innovative Nordic Welfare Solutions initiated by the five Nordic ministries of business through the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Business and Innovation Policy 2014-2017. The project shall contribute to making the Nordics a leading region in developing and exporting innovative health and welfare solutions.