Norway regularly scores highly on quality of life and well-being and enjoys favourable amounts of disposable income, high employment rates, and fewer people needing to work extremely long hours than most other countries. Norway also has among the highest GDP of the countries surveyed by the OECD, which is linked to greater self-reported life satisfaction.
Healthcare indicators show a higher life expectancy than average.
So why is this the case?
One of the contributors to Norway’s high quality of life could be its commitment to generous public spending; Norway spends almost 10% of its GDP on healthcare, and this differs to many other countries as the vast majority of its spending is on public rather than private healthcare. The US, by comparison, spends nearly 17% of GDP on healthcare with around half on private costs. Even with current spending levels, Norway’s ageing demographic and commitment to high spending on public healthcare require economic planning for the future. For example, existing equipment in Norwegian hospitals requires upgrading urgently, at an estimated cost of $600million.
The UK’s original conception of the NHS inspired Norway’s successful current healthcare model. In 2002, the Norwegian Hospital Reform Act led to the central government taking back ownership of hospitals; this centralisation of healthcare resulted in a fewer number of hospitals becoming more specialised, concentrating staff in a smaller number of larger hospitals, and has led to impressive health outcomes. Norway outperforms the UK on every measure of quality of care. While the UK and US are in the bottom third of performers for the survival of cervical, breast, and colorectal cancers, Norway is in the top third for all but the latter, where it still has better health outcomes than the majority.
How does technology help the Healthcare system in Norway and therefore improve quality of life?
Norway was among the first countries to use technology within healthcare. Considering their increasing economic commitments toward healthcare, the Norwegian government identified the rapid development of ehealth technology as their key priority. Speaking at a conference on mHealth technology in 2014, State Secretary Cecilie Brein-Karlsen described the aim of mobile technology to 'advance prevention, treatment, and enforcement in order to address diseases such as cancer and diabetes.'
In 2013, the Norwegian government implemented Health Technology Assessment (HTA) in all its hospitals. Taking a model of localised Mini-HTA, they use horizon scanning, health technology, and single technology assessments (STA) to inform planning. Use of Mini-HTA involves a clinician implementing a questionnaire that assesses the technology, the patients, and the financial and organisational consequences. Mini-HTA has formed the cornerstone of healthcare decision-making in Norway and other countries in which it has proliferated, such as Finland and Sweden. Current technology in use includes electronic patient journals (EPJs) and e-prescriptions so that patients can access their own health information digitally.
Innovative startups in MedTech are linked by Norway Health Tech, formerly Oslo Medtech, who have created a community for startups within health technology. For example, Novelda creates technology that can monitor environments; its award-winning opaque environment monitoring technology remotely measures the thickness of ice and snow. Novelda’s healthcare product, XeThru, uses sensors to monitor patients’ heart rate and other vital signs, alongside environmental checks to assess location and distance.
Key to the success of health technology in Norway has been the government’s identification of telemedicine as a crucial area for investment. Telemedicine allows sharing of information between hospitals and care providers, and includes radiology, video conferencing, and networking records such as heart rate recordings. As in any country, effective implementation of technology depends on the willingness and ability of healthcare leaders. In addition, research has found that telemedicine is insufficient in critical situations such as strokes, where the motivation and availability of staff, organisation, and surveillance can limit its efficacy. Such issues need to be addressed before the potential of the technology to enable collaboration and automation is fully realised.
Norway’s early adoption of health technology and its commitment to implementation contributes to its existing high ratings for quality of life. Importantly, it enables sustainable systems for the future so that quality of life remains high in Norway.