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How Healthcare in Sweden works

Sweden’s healthcare is among the best in the world. The country has a system for the residents that ensures its equal access to healthcare services. The purpose is to provide good-quality health and medical care to everyone in Sweden.

In this post, we will take a closer look at how healthcare in Sweden works and its relevant aspects.

A decentralized healthcare

Sweden has three levels of government: national, regional, and local. It is divided into 290 municipalities and 21 regional councils. The healthcare is decentralized since every regional council is responsible for their region. In some cases, the responsibility lies with the local councils or municipal governments instead. The government provides healthcare with principles and guidelines, and they set the political agenda for health and medical care.

According to the Swedish policy, every regional council has to provide residents with good-quality health and medical care. As of 2019, regional councils even cover dental care costs for residents up to the age of 23. For residents from the age of 24, dental care is subsidized by the state.

Elderly care

The municipalities are respons­ible for the elderly’s care in the home or special accommodation. It also includes care for those with physical disabilities and psychological disorders. 

People in Sweden are living longer and longer. Today the average life span is 84 years for women and 81 years for men. The country proportionally has one of Europe’s largest elderly populations, and, of course, the ageing population puts pressure on the Swedish healthcare system.

Professional midwives

Midwives have a very significant impact on the Healthcare System. The country early realized the importance of having more professional midwives, which have helped to decrease the mortality of women in childbirth. Nowadays, maternal mortality in Sweden is among the lowest in the world.

Patient safety law

Even though healthcare in Sweden is well-developed, there are always challenges to get over. Many of them can also be seen in other countries. Challenges and difficulties including such as issues of access, quality, efficiency, and funding. But one thing that is prioritized in Sweden is patient safety.

In 2011, the country established a new law to regulate this area, the Patient Safety Law. It gives patients and family members the opportunities to influence the quality of healthcare and easily report cases of wrong treatment. 

Every year, the National Patient Survey provides an annual measurement of how patients perceive the quality of healthcare concerning treatment, patient involvement, confidence in care, and information. The results from the annual survey are compiled by every regional council and region to develop and improve care.

A healthcare guarantee

In 2005, Sweden introduced a healthcare guarantee: “All patients should be in contact with a local health center (vårdcentral) the same day they seek help and should get a medical assessment within three days. After an initial examination, no patient should have to wait more than 90 days to see a specialist, and no more than 90 days for an operation or treatment, once it has been determined what care is needed. If the waiting time is exceeded, patients are offered care elsewhere with no extra costs, including travel.” Read more in the official site of Sweden.

Patient fees

If a patient has to stay in the hospital, he or she will be charged max SEK 100 per day. The cost of primary care, depending on the regional council, is between SEK 0–300. Someone who has to see a specialist or requires an emergency visit, pays max SEK 400.

A total of SEK 1,150 is the maximum that a patient ever has to pay for medical consultations over 12 months. Any consultations exceeding this amount are free of charge for the patient. On the other hand, regarding prescription medication, nobody has to pay more than SEK 2,350 in a given period of 12 months.

Expenses

Swedish healthcare is largely tax-funded. Costs for health and medical care as a percentage of Sweden’s GDP is fairly solid and very similar to most other EU countries. Most of the health and medical costs are paid for by regional and municipal taxes. The national government is also another source of funding, while patient fees are a small percentage of costs. Health, medical- and social care constitute one of the larger expenses for the Swedish government.

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