Denmark goes digital to better support its ageing population

At GCIO Forum 2017, Yih-Jeou Wang, head of International Cooperation at Agency for Digitisation, Denmark, shares how the country is leveraging technology to reduce operating costs as well as enable its citizens to be independent.

By Nayela Deeba
Aug. 8, 2017


Yih-Jeou Wang, head of International Cooperation at Agency for Digitisation, Denmark
Yih-Jeou Wang, head of International Cooperation at Agency for Digitisation, Denmark, speaking at GCIO Forum 2017. 

Denmark's move to digitise its public sector isn't just to save costs; it is to also ensure that the country can continue meeting its citizens' needs and demands in future.

"We expect those aged 70 and above to make up 84 percent of our population by 2040. As such, we're pressured to have a sustainable public sector that can support our ageing population's needs for the next 20 to 30 years without increasing public spending," Yih-Jeou Wang, head of International Cooperation at Agency for Digitisation, Denmark, told GCIO Asia ahead of GCIO Forum 2017.

With that goal in mind, Denmark has been digitising a range of its public services since 2011. For instance, 89 percent of its citizens and every company in the country now receive digital letters. The eIncome register also enables automatic payments of social benefits, including the payments of public pensions to 1.2 million citizens, said Wang.

He added that the country currently has more than 100 public services that are digital self- services, and digitisation has helped the government save approximately S$471 million per year.

Faced with an ageing population and with approximately 1.8 million Danes having chronic diseases, the country had to find ways to reduce the cost of supporting these groups and enabling them to be independent.

One of the ways it is doing so is through telemedicine. Last year, the central, regional and municipal governments jointly financed the home monitoring of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) trial. Patients were provided with a Telekit -- which includes a tablet with mobile internet, scale, a blood pressure gauge and an oxygen meter -- enabling them to measure and report data about their condition on their own. This is supported by home visits by nurses or visits to the hospital when necessary. 

Wang shared that 50 percent of the COPD patients who participated in the trial gained better understanding of their illness, while 62 percent of them experienced increased control of their illness. As telemedicine also reduced the need for nurses to frequently conduct home visits to get patients' data, it allowed nurses to be more productive and focus more on their core work. Given the positive results of the trial, the project will be rolled out nationwide from 2019 onwards, said Wang.

As part of this year's finance agreements between the central government and local government, Denmark is also looking to enable a digitally supported rehabilitation. This will allow patients to transit seamlessly from a regional to municipal hospital (or their own homes) after receiving a major treatment such as knee operation to speed up recovery. "We want to reduce the time patients spend unnecessarily in the hospital as research has shown that patients recover more quickly at home," explained Wang.

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