Workshop to identify the challenges of digitalisation in the health sector2022-12-14
Digital Well Arena is a collaborative initiative on digital solutions for a healthier life, between the public sector, academia, civil society, entrepreneurs and business in Värmland. Recently, a workshop was held to make an inventory of the needs for digitalisation in the healthcare sector, what problems society and individuals would benefit from having solved. A multidisciplinary group of researchers working at Karlstad University is now taking over and investigating how research can be part of the solutions.
The workshop took place as an all-day activity at Karlstad Innovation Park, where participants were put into small groups of 4-5 people for discussion. The focus was on what challenges do we see with digitalisation in the healthcare sector?
The participants saw many challenges. These could be technical issues such as systems not being linked or not meeting the necessary functional requirements, record sharing restrictions, or privacy risks in using and sharing data. Problems can also be structural, such as different responsible authorities creating bottlenecks, different sizes of operational areas such as large and small municipalities having different logistical and administrative conditions, individual citizens being affected by shortcomings, and procurement processes being time-consuming which can be a problem when technology is advancing rapidly.
The skills, digital maturity and, not least, the approach of health professionals to new technologies also play a major role in how quickly a digital transformation can be achieved.
Leonardo Iwaya, Associate Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, is one of the researchers who participated in the workshop:
It's a good way to kick-start any kind of project with a workshop really. A good starting point is to really make an inventory of all kinds of problems and pain points, and categorize them, so that you have a broad overview before you can start actually trying to solve the problems. It was good to sit in small groups because then everyone has more space and opportunity to dare to talk. As a researcher, it is important and valuable to listen to what the needs owners actually perceive as problematic. More of these kinds of events and methods, please!
Under the Digital Well Arena umbrella, Leonardo is also participating in the DIGI-EL research project, which is an example of how to apply digitised healthcare. The project is a collaboration between Karlstad University and Region Värmland. The project is developing a mobile app, Contraction Coach, and investigating how it can affect users' experience of early labour. DIGI-EL evaluates whether this digital support can contribute to reduced anxiety, stress and fear during pregnancy and childbirth in first-time mothers and their partners.
During the research study, participants share a lot of data by filling in forms and questionnaires, wearing pedometers and more. Leonardo Iwaya contributes to DIGI-EL with his expertise on data privacy, how much can we really measure without compromising the privacy of the individual?
In Värmland, a strong, coordinated and joint regional leadership between the public sector, academia and business has for a long time been investing in service innovation and digitalisation of welfare services. The work is carried out within the framework of Värmland's research and innovation strategy for sustainable smart specialisation, within the Digital Health Innovation specialisation.
The ongoing major collaborative project Digital Well Arena is an example of the efforts being made. The Arena project provides the conditions for a working group to coordinate activities, represent the research environments that are part of the partnership for Karlstad University and enable participation in new collaborations, research and innovation projects. The project is co-financed between Vinnova and Karlstad University for 4 years, with a total of SEK 16 million.
The rich material of challenges that emerged during the needs inventory workshop at Karlstad Innovation Park was then passed on to the interdisciplinary group of researchers associated with the Digital Well Arena. They have now taken on the stimulating task of clustering all the challenges and needs, to try and pinpoint what is possible to do research on. In 2023, it is hoped that these research directions will take shape and projects will be established.
Setting up projects where academia interacts with business and the public sector creates a unique opportunity for knowledge transfer between all participating actors, says Erik Wästlund, Associate Professor of Psychology at the Centre for Services Research, who was one of the organisers of the workshop. Now the actors involved in the DigitalWell Arena want to raise the level of ambition even further. The fact that Region Värmland and Karlstad University are joining forces around the Academy for Smart Specialisation through the DHINO project creates a unique opportunity for recurring events of this type. With additional funding from Vinnova, the conditions are in place to eventually also be able to provide a national resource for expertise on how we can jointly develop in-demand digitalised and equitable welfare solutions.