Svein Berg: Health data from all Nordic countries can be used for innovations

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The second phase of Nordic Health 2030 starts soon. In this regard, Editor talked to Svein Berg, the Managing Director of Nordic Innovation. It is an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers, with aim to make the Nordics a pioneering region for sustainable growth by promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and competitiveness in Nordic businesses. Svein Berg took part in the first phase of the Nordic Health 2030.

You are the Managing Director of Nordic Innovation, an organization under the Nordic Council of Ministers, that provides support for projects and programs to stimulate innovation in the Nordic region. How would you describe the development and assess the current state of healthcare innovations across the Nordic region?

We experience that Nordic healthcare innovations are highly acknowledged on international markets such as USA and the UK which gives some indications that the innovative environment is working in an international perspective. However, the lack of better access to Nordic health data means that the potential is far from taken out. In Nordic innovations latest report on the subject, called “The Business Case for sharing of Nordic Health Data” written by EY, it is underscored that there is still a potential to increase annual turnover in the Nordic health tech market estimated to EUR 3 billion by 2040 if we implement the Nordic Innovation’s program vision. 

In your opinion, how can closer cooperation boost innovations in Nordic healthcare?

What we note is that while the Nordic countries have individually valid and reliable health data, but data sets are often too small to find solutions to rare diseases, which increasingly is the reality with big public health challenges like non-communicable diseases like cancer. 10-15 years ago, stomach cancer was once one disease – today, it is a group of 20 or so diseases where the patient benefits enormously from specific treatment – this in turn means the need for more data to develop and innovate on. Here there is a clear need to collaborate across the Nordic boarders so that data from all five countries can be used for innovative purposes. 

Furthermore, when the ambition is to make the Nordic region the most integrated health region in the world, then there is a need to cooperate across the Nordic boarders and also across sectors. A closer collaboration between business, digitalization (not least in the public sector) and health is needed to really boost innovations in Nordic healthcare.

Last but not least, there is a need to increase the number of new solutions which are tested in Nordic testbeds. We recognize that there is a lack of systematic access points for companies that want to test their solutions in addition to a constrain on certain types of testbeds in the five countries. Hence by closer cooperation across the Nordic boarders the full breadth of the testbeds can be utilized more effectively yielding more new solutions that have been better tested.

You took part in Nordic Health 2030 process. In your view, what was the most important outcome of Nordic Health 2030?

We are not yet finished, but the beginning of the change of focus to preventive health as a very important factor in ensuring that the Nordic health care systems are still well functioning in 2030 was very important. This also includes the increased focus on the secondary use of health data. 

We are now embarking on the second stage of Nordic Health 2030. What is the most important outcome we should aim at?

Implementation of the first 2030 agenda is very important, we need to see accelerated change and use the experiences from the Covid pandemic to push the agenda of use of health data and the focus on preventive health. 

Furthermore, we need to utilize the innovative capacity of the Nordics and the ability of our societies to collaborate across the borders to be a frontrunner to the EU – the Nordics should to an even larger degree be a region which inspires the EU on the potential of cross border health innovation and health data sharing. The implementation of shared Nordic health data both for primary and secondary use will both better the quality of life for the Nordic citizens and better the innovation possibilities for the Nordic companies, which both are of key interest to Nordic Innovation.