Extra money to reduce healthcare wait times

Sweden plans to reward local health authorities for good performance, according to health minister Göran Hägglund.

Extra money to reduce healthcare wait times

The new budget will appropriate 1 billion kronor ($150 million) to motivate health authorities to cut wait times for patients seeking care.

The money will only go to health authorities which demonstrate consistently good results when it comes to Sweden’s health guarantee (vårdgarantin), writes Hägglund in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

He adds that he’d also like to see the health guarantee anchored in legislation.

“We thus would give healthcare policy makers, administrators, and other healthcare personnel signals to focus on accessibility,” writes Hägglund.

Currently, many health authorities don’t live up to the health guarantee.

Implemented in January 2007, the guarantee is supposed to ensure patients can visit a doctor and receive treatment within specific time frames.

Under the guarantee, people seeking care are supposed to make contact with someone from the health authorities on the same day and be able to schedule a preliminary visit within five days.

In addition, patients are supposed to see specialists within 30 days of receiving a referral, and if further treatment is deemed necessary, patients are to undergo the prescribed procedures within 90 days.

Despite the guarantee and other efforts, patients are still forced to wait longer than the guarantee promises.

This is unacceptable, explains Hägglund, who plans instead to reward those who provide treatment in time.

“The latest statistics show that the number of patients who have waited longer than 90 days for a visit to a specialist varies between 11 and 37 percent…and the number who have waited longer than 90 days for treatment varies between 11 and 51 percent, writes Hägglund.