This blog post introduces Care Company TioHundra in Norrtälje, Sweden. This is a unique model of integrated care in Europe. I have had the opportunity to interview Peter Graf, Chief Operating Officer of TioHundra. Peter Graf talks openly about the challenges and the many opportunities that TioHundra faces. I have also had the opportunity to interview members of the staff and managers throughout the organization. Through these interviews, I have gained an understanding of the different parts of the company. I will tell you about my impressions of TioHundra in a series of blog posts. You can access the full interviews and all relevant background information from this case study on the ACCESS Health website.
An older person with multiple diseases often requires care from several healthcare and care providers. This elderly patient may travel to a local hospital for treatment. It is not uncommon that up to sixty people from various care organizations are involved in the care of an older individual with complex care needs. Patients with complex care needs require the services of both the county healthcare providers and the local municipal care organizations. As individuals in Sweden age, and as more people live with multiple diseases and have complex care needs, counties and municipalities realize the need for greater care coordination. Care coordination to meet the needs of the elderly is one of the greatest challenges in Swedish healthcare, witnessed by the large effort of the previous center right coalition government to improve care coordination in the program “The Most Ill Elderly” from 2010 to 2014. The previous government allocated over four billion Swedish kronor to improve the coordination of care for the most ill elderly. TioHundra shows that their model of integrated care already works well. During the program The Most Ill Elderly, TioHundra received funding based on the results they displayed in their work for the most elderly ill. These results included a reduction in unsuitable medication for the elderly and shorter wait times in the emergency room, among other areas.
Elsewhere in Sweden, regional governments manage the healthcare provision while local governments provide homecare and social care. Well defined areas of responsibility ensure that each provider in healthcare and in social care can focus on a range of services. In theory, the specialization of each level of government ensures that citizens obtain the healthcare and homecare they need. In practice, the division of responsibilities causes delays in service delivery, and at times, it compromises the quality of care. Regional and local governments use different communications systems, have distinctive work cultures, and use individual terminologies. Older frail patients, among other groups, suffer when healthcare providers fail to communicate effectively across organizations. TioHundra overcomes many problems of care coordination. Instead of coordinating care across organizations, TioHundra merged multiple care providers, now operating as one large healthcare and care system. This merger entails one of the largest regional reforms of Swedish healthcare since the Nobel Reform in 1992.
Care Company TioHundra is a public healthcare company that provides integrated care in Norrtälje, a city one hour north of Stockholm in Sweden. TioHundra operates an emergency hospital, six primary healthcare clinics, and a home healthcare organization for patients who are unable to travel to obtain care. It also manages social care and homecare organizations. The company runs nine nursing homes and it has 3,500 employees, including healthcare professionals and administrative staff.
To improve the quality of healthcare and to overcome the care coordination problems of regional and local administrations, Norrtälje and the Stockholm County Council established TioHundra in 2006.
The guiding philosophy of TioHundra is to construct an integrated healthcare system. The objective is to be the leader in integrated care in Sweden, and to be the number one choice of care provider in Norrtälje. The management approach centers on constant improvements. Managers and employees at all levels of the company identify areas for improvement, suggest new routines, and implement changes. The idea is to constantly improve service delivery and employee satisfaction.
Improved Care, Lower Cost
The ability to turn around negative operating results of previous years into a positive net result helped to convince politicians in the region that TioHundra improves the quality of care while lowering the delivery costs. Results from the employee survey show that the company employs a more satisfied workforce in 2014 than in 2013.
TioHundra manages to overcome certain problems of care coordination that persist in other regions and in other municipalities. Formal and informal channels of communication improve the transfer of information between different departments. Patient data is shared throughout the organization with the help of read only functions in patient journals. Weekly meetings of the management team foster an atmosphere of cooperation. Where disagreement occurs, the meetings serve as an arena for constructive debate.
TioHundra obtains one pool of financial resources from municipal and county taxes. Elsewhere, counties raise taxes for healthcare while municipalities raise separate taxes for social care. Budget silos prevent counties and municipalities to coordinate care in other parts of Sweden. One level of government is sometimes reluctant to deliver a service it considers to be the responsibility of the other level of government. The organizational structure of TioHundra allows this problem to be overcome through a lateral integration of caregivers from the county and the municipality.
In summary, TioHundra is a unique healthcare company. There are no other companies like TioHundra in Sweden. Few similar care organizations exist elsewhere in the Nordic countries. TioHundra reported a balanced budge for the first time in 2014. It also marked a year where management recorded improvements in employee satisfaction. TioHundra delivers healthcare of high quality at relatively low costs. The company has reduced the number of medications per older patient, reduced the prescription of unsuitable medications for the elderly, and it has shortened emergency room wait times for this patient group.
It remains to be seen how the integrated care model of TioHundra evolves. A transition in 2015 away from a focus on balancing the budget, towards operational and organizational changes is already noticeable. This is a young company with an eager management team. If the quality of care improves dramatically, and if the costs of healthcare can be contained in Norrtälje, other counties and municipalities may look into adopting the model of TioHundra.
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