Ewa Wikström i handelshögskolans korridorer kollar in i kameran.
Photo: Carina Gran

New research brings better prioritisations within healthcare


Healthcare faces major challenges. An ageing population, combined with global pandemics and crises, means increased demand for healthcare. At the same time, resources are limited. The University of Gothenburg’s School of Business, Economics and Law and Sahlgrenska Academy are now launching a joint initiative to generate new knowledge and solutions for the future of healthcare.

“Preventive care needs to be expanded, primary care needs to be better equipped, and digital solutions need to be introduced for a sustainable healthcare organisation that promotes accessibility and equal health,” explains Professor Ewa Wikström, Head of the newly established Centre for Health Governance at the University of Gothenburg.

It is, of course, a good thing that people are living longer and staying healthy well into old age. Many people live active lives, and work for many years after reaching retirement age. Thanks to improved treatment methods, people with chronic diseases can also live longer.

“But this means that healthcare services will face difficult prioritisation decisions when many patients need healthcare at the same time,” she continues.

The healthcare sector has been raising warning flags for years. There have been calls for better governance models and improved knowledge about health economics to meet future healthcare needs and all the challenges involved. According to Professor Wikström, healthcare needs to identify new ways of managing and organising operations in order to deal with the transition.

“This development will require researchers and academia to provide knowledge so that the healthcare sector can decide on the right priorities.”

Combining research

The Centre for Health Governance is a unique initiative that combines governance and organisational research with health economics theories and methods. Together, the School of Business, Economics and Law and the Sahlgrenska Academy have identified six research fields that are particularly urgent, and where academia is at the forefront: Medical technologies, digitalisation and AI, funding models, standardised care processes, equal health and decent work.

Professor Wikström cites digitalisation and AI as examples where many people within healthcare want support on questions of responsibility. What are the effects of increased digitalisation on patients and on staff’s day-to-day work? And what about legal security when automated decision-making support is used in healthcare?

“These are new ways of working that will fundamentally change healthcare procedures. This is where we come in, and where our research and knowledge can make a contribution.”

With the ambitions of person-centred care and access for all, there is also a risk that certain technological investments will be rejected for financial reasons. However, the question is whether this represents short-term thinking that is unprofitable in the long term. One of the centre’s projects will involve studying the socioeconomic value of introducing new medical technologies.

“Both decision-makers and practitioners need guidance on governance issues and the legal and economic implications of new approaches and treatment methods. They often lack sufficient information to make sound decisions about prioritisations.”

Great interest

Future healthcare needs will also require good preventive care, in which primary care is expected to play an even greater role. At the same time, there is an ongoing discussion about how funding models should be structured and how cooperation should be organised between different forms of healthcare. Here, too, there is a need for more knowledge – which the centre will be able to contribute.

“The common theme in our work is that we try to combine methods and theories that are not normally brought together. Both governance and health management research are combined with health economics research.”

There has been a great deal of interest in the new research centre, not least from decision-makers and healthcare managers. Both private and public actors have realised that the new healthcare landscape places high demands on collaboration. The centre’s researchers are now mobilising to meet the many expectations.

“Our ambition is to build an infrastructure around this research, and to be involved in knowledge dissemination and collaboration, for example through seminars and workshops,” concludes Professor Wikström. “The challenge now is to grow so that we can meet the great need for knowledge.”