Can Technology Save the Health and Care Sector?

Photo: National Cancer Institute/
Photo: National Cancer Institute/
By Tor W Andreassen

29 May 2024 12:36

Can Technology Save the Health and Care Sector?

The health and care sector is facing critical challenges that require collaboration between private and public actors and innovative solutions to ensure sustainable well-being for all residents. Can technology be the key to transforming and saving our healthcare system for future generations?

Tor W Andreassen, NHO Geneos
Professor Tor W. Andreassen from DIG / NHH lectured on this topic at the NHO Geneos annual conference on 23 April. The conference is one of the most important meeting places for the healthcare industry, welfare and growth sector, where several hundred business leaders, top politicians, academics and experts participate annually.

The health and care sector is facing significant challenges that require innovative solutions to ensure a sustainable and efficient healthcare system. With an ageing population and increased demands for healthcare services, it is essential to explore how technology can play a crucial role in meeting these challenges.

This post builds on my presentation at the NHO Geneo Annual Conference 2024 and seeks to shed light on how collaboration and technology can contribute to a sustainable healthcare system that ensures the well-being of residents throughout their lives.

The goal is to develop a healthcare system that is not only sustainable but also ensures the population's well-being in a holistic way. This requires collaboration between three key actors: residents, private and public providers, and granting and regulatory authorities.

Each of these actors has an essential role in promoting innovation, increasing capacity and efficiency, and improving the quality of healthcare services through new business models and system innovations.

Technology can play several key roles in the health and care sector.

Firstly, technological solutions like service robots, artificial intelligence (AI), and generative AI (GenAI) can help relieve staff by taking over cognitively demanding and analytical tasks. This liberates healthcare personnel to focus on tasks that require empathy and human relationships, which are essential for patient care.

Many of Norway's hospitals were built many years ago, with buildings that may be poorly adapted to today's treatment methods and technological solutions. For example, the Rikshospitalet in Oslo, established in 1826 with the current main building from 1999, and Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, originally established in 1912.

Modern healthcare services require not only new treatment methods but also adapted buildings that can effectively support new treatment methods and new technology. A sustainable health sector requires more than simplifying tasks. To achieve our goal, we must address a restructuring of both business models and systems for how healthcare services are provided. This includes political measures to open up the scope for collaboration with the private sector, innovation and overcoming path dependence – a tendency to stick to traditional methods.

Today's funding model is not sustainable, and demographic changes require us to find new solutions that focus more on prevention than repair. Norway, like many other countries, is experiencing a significant increase in the proportion of elderly people in the population and a decline in the birth rate. This results in reduced access to younger labour, increased demand for health services, and necessary labour market adjustments to include more older workers.

To meet these challenges, we must facilitate older people living at home longer and being an active part of the community. The concept of responsible ageing involves individuals maintaining their well-being in a way that also promotes well-being for future generations, proactively and early.

This involves physical, psychological, social, emotional and financial well-being. Technology can play an important role in supporting this approach by providing tools and resources that help the elderly live independent and meaningful lives.

We face a challenging future for the health and care sector, but with the right use of technology, innovation and collaboration, we can create a sustainable and efficient healthcare system.

 By embracing new business models, system innovations and responsible ageing, we can ensure that our healthcare system, the jewel in the welfare state, remains strong and capable of meeting future demands.

Tor W. Andreassen, Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) and affiliated with the DIG Centre.

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