Centralisation set to transform European healthcare

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Healthcare reform is sweeping Europe, with countries opting for centralisation and the creation of new ‘healthcare regions’ to implement overarching healthcare IT solutions. Finland and France are reforming their healthcare systems and NHS England is in the midst of its Five Year Forward View. So why is centralisation in vogue and how will these reforms affect eHealth policies and IT procurement?

Norway, which had decentralised healthcare until the 1970s, is a good advert for centralised healthcare reform as patient outcomes are now among the best in the world. In 2002 the government took control of Norway’s hospitals, cut the number of smaller hospitals and created larger specialised units. Though there was opposition at the time as the government was seen as being too ‘eager with the scalpel’, it seemed to work.

Now other European countries are following Norway’s lead. Finland has decided to restructure and plans to replace the 313 existing municipalities with 18 new autonomous counties, which will be responsible for social welfare and healthcare services from 2019.

Laura Kalliomaa-Puha, Assistant Professor at Tampere University’s School of Social Science and Humanities in Finland, said: “Catering for the growing needs of social welfare and healthcare requires wider shoulders than those of the municipalities. The reform also aims to improve public sector productivity, which in the long run combats the sustainability problems in the welfare sector”.

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