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Sweden struggles to achieve ambitious e-health dreams

Think a world-class public healthcare system, a stable of leading tech firms, and an impressive track-record of digital innovation make Sweden a shoe-in for the top spot globally in digital healthcare?

Think again. Sweden has long been admired for its comprehensive system of social welfare in which taxpayers fund an impressive range of benefits, with public healthcare provision at its core.

At Sweden is also ranked in several indices rank as one of the world's most innovative countries, and is home to several successful global firms as well as tech startup scene that's churning out new firms that have the power to turn traditional industries on their heads. More broadly, Sweden is also a very mobile savvy, connected society, with deep penetration of high-speed internet connections (93 percent of Swedes had internet access in 2015) and smartphones (77 percent).

Nor are Swedes afraid to conduct transactions online, with 79 percent having bought goods and services over the net in 2015. With such favourable conditions, it seems obvious the country that helped rewrite the rules for digital delivery of music and banking services is doing the same with digital healthcare.

But while strides have been made in healthcare digitalization, progress has been far from uniform. Overloaded IT infrastructure, coordination difficulties, and other factors have slowed the sort of investment needed to fully accomplish Sweden's digital healthcare transformation – the consequences of which are already affecting patients.

In March 2017, for example, the IT system at a hospital in Västerås in central Sweden went offline for several hours in the middle of the night.


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