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Technology drives patient power in Norway

A health authority in Norway is using technology to help patients understand their conditions and make better decisions

A Norwegian health authority is testing an app designed to give patients a better understanding of the choices available for their specific circumstances.

Decide Treatment was developed by EviCare, a collaboration involving Innlandet Hospital Trust, Dips ASA, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet – or NTNU) and the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services, with the backing of the Norwegian Research Council.

The software was developed in Ukraine by Intersog and is being completed and integrated by supplier Dips ASA.

Eiring Øystein, project head and co-founder of EviCare, said the technology has the potential to help patients in many ways.

“It will allow patients to think about what is important to them and explore their choices and weigh the pros and cons of the different options – just like you would do for any other major decision in your life,” said Øystein.

“For example, a patient with rheumatoid arthritis might care more about fatigue than pain relief, in which case there are different options open to them.

“For bi-polar disorders, there are more than 20 different treatments available. When combined with a patient’s individual circumstances, it’s clear we should be using technology to support these processes.”

Decide Treatment also empowers patients to monitor their own condition, giving better data to the doctor and optimising treatment.

Øystein, also a medical advisor for Dips, has worked for several years with a knowledge and evidence-based approach to healthcare in Norway. An umbrella regional project quickly evolved from improving access to knowledge, to taking patients’ wishes into account and including them in the decision-making process.

Øystein initially worked with groups in the UK, Australia and South Korea, but due to specific Norwegian requirements, he wasn’t able to build on these foundations. An outsourced developer was found from a limited tender process, involving companies from Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

Scandinavian companies were not considered for the tender primarily due to cost, although Øystein said the availability of relevant skills was also a decision factor.

“It was clear from an early stage it would be possible to get more done using more qualified people by looking overseas. Although we had a limited budget, we required a partner that was able and willing to innovate,” he said. The partner chosen was Intersog.

Although headquartered in Chicago, Intersog employs 150 people in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and Black Sea resort Odessa. Among other things, Øystein praised Intersog for its proactive approach to user experience design.

“Our first task was to create a user interface that could be easily used by people with mental disorders and with little or no experience with mobile systems. Based on the target groups, we chose a colour palette that is calm and relaxing, mostly shades of light blue and white,” said Viktor Bogdanov, head of marketing and PR at Intersog.

“It took us two months to create a fully interactive prototype and prepare all functional design documentation needed. The prototype was updated on a weekly basis to ensure rich functionality and improved usability, and reviewed with twice-weekly Skype calls with the client.”

Following successful trials, the app is expected to be made widely available by the end of 2015.   .........................................................................

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