Improving healthcare services – A study tour to Sweden

Dr Sharon Williams, an Improvement Scientist at Swansea University's College of Human and Health Sciences, was recently invited on a study tour to Sweden, along with her Improvement Science Fellow, Dr Sonya Crowe from University College London.

Hosted by Vinnvård Improvement Science Fellows from Jönköping Academy and Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, their visit included meetings at Eksjö hospital where Sharon presented her fellowship research to a wide team of health professionals. 

This visit also included hearing about the internationally renowned Swedish ‘Esther’ project, being employed by the stroke unit.  Wales has a similar patient-centred project referred to as ‘Megan’.  The fellows also led a joint workshop where they presented their fellowship research to members of the logistics and improvement team at Qulturum (a centre for the development of improvement knowledge and innovation in healthcare located in Jönköping).  Whilst in Jönköping the fellows also visited the Dialysis unit to hear about the improvements made to the service and the introduction of self-administered dialysis. 

The visit to Stockholm was spent mainly at the Karolinska Institute with the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics.  Dr Williams presented her pathway research to PhD students and researchers from the Institute’s Medical Management Centre.  The tour also included a visit Emergency Department of the newly opened Karolinska University Children’s hospital in Stockholm and discussions with a lead consultant (also a Vinnvård Improvement Science Fellow) about the improvement research they are undertaking which has been developed around value-based healthcare using Michael Porter’s well-known value chain model.   

Dr Williams said: “This was an excellent opportunity to see and hear about some of the excellent improvement work happing in the Swedish healthcare system.  In particular around the use of logistics and supply chain management research for improving healthcare. 

"I was particularly struck by the use of agile methodology in the design of team meetings and PhD student-led discussions.  There are a number of researchers who are beginning to explore the use of lean and agile in healthcare which hopefully will form the basis of future collaborative work."