The idea of cross-border interoperability is nothing new. Lots of discussions have been had around the topic and several initiatives have started without actually reaching the ultimate goal – the opportunity for citizens to travel across national borders feeling safe their needed patient data and history will be available at the point of care, if needed.
With an ever more travelling world, the need for solutions to support this mobility are crucial and important. Even so, many initiatives have not succeeded with their ambition of cross national border patient mobility. So why should a initiative in the Nordics have a better chance for success?
The Nordic region is a perfect test bed for cross-border patient mobility due to several reasons, including:
- Only five counties geographically close in a small corner of the world
- A total of “just” approximately 27 million inhabitants
- Long common history and background
- Similar languages which makes dialogue quite easy
- A common Nordic welfare model
- Democratic societies built on trust
With this in mind, representatives from the Nordic organizations Tieto, Sectra, Cambio and OuluHealth sat down together in the fall of 2018 and decided to make something happen – and started the Nordic Interoperability Project (NIP). Several partners have since joined the project.
Through the means of technical interoperability showcases, with a broad variety of organizations involved, the project partners want to spark the dialogue and discussions needed to find good, sustainable solutions that could benefit the whole of the Nordics.
The project is funded by Nordic Innovation as part of our Health, Demography and Quality of Life program to support our vision for health data sharing in the Nordic region saying that “In 2030 the Nordics will be the most sustainable and integrated health region in the world, providing the best possible personalized health care for all its citizens.”
By reaching this ambition, this project has not only created a better everyday life for the many citizens in the Nordics, but also built a bigger home market for the Nordic healthcare industry.
NIP want to develop this initiative into an open ecosystem and digital meeting places for anyone wanting to see this ambition become a reality.
What is interoperability?
Interoperability sounds a bit complicated but is perhaps not as complicated as it sounds and is defined by can be defined by HIMSS, a global not-for-profit organization focused on better health through information and technology, as:
“Interoperability is the ability of different information systems, devices or applications to connect, in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational boundaries to access, exchange and cooperatively use data amongst stakeholders, with the goal of optimizing the health of individuals and populations.”
In short, interoperability is the ability of different information systems to connect to access, exchange and use patient data to optimize the health of individuals. That does not sound so difficult. And if you take away the health aspect of this sentence, interoperability is exactly what happens when you either use your credit card in a given store or call someone with your mobile phone.
Without having to know anything about what supplier or solution the store have, or your recipient of your call have, the money transaction goes through and your call works without problem. But when it comes to your health data this seamless accessibility of your data is not given. On the contrary, to be given your patient data in a printed format to bring to the next care giver is not unusual. Ask anyone pregnant or with a chronic disease, chances are their folder of journals and medical documentation is not far away.
The reason for this is that within the healthcare sector interoperability is not a given – yet. This is why the Nordic Interoperability Project wants to do something about this.
To illustrate the possibilities and challenges sharing of health data in the Nordics present, the NIP project has created the Alva case. Alva is a Swedish diabetes patient in the near future, and we follow her journey through the Nordic region and see how shared health data is affecting her travels.