Harmonising clinical practices can increase the availability of social welfare and health care services in Finland
Despite the work done in recent decades towards harmonising clinical practices, the relative disparities in regional service provision remain unchanged. According to a recent OECD report, geographical differences in social welfare and health care provision are especially concerning. Today, it is often the case that a client or patient's access to services is predominantly determined by where he or she lives. The OECD goes so far as to encourage its member states to pay particular attention to assuring both the efficacy and fairness of their social welfare and health care systems.
In Finland, the national Current Care Guidelines, common criteria for health care access, and the rights of clients and patients will all lead to more equal service provision than is presently the case. But there is still plenty of work to be done before the implementation of these measures leads to more equitable clinical practices across the country.
In fact, steps have already been taken in the right direction thanks to the reform of Finland's social welfare and health care services, which, it is hoped, will go some way to reducing geographical bias. At the heart of this reform is the government's commitment to safeguarding the provision of local health and welfare services. The reform of social welfare and health care services will lead to more equal access across the whole of Finland.
The OECD report also states that current geographical differences are at least partially caused by certain areas being over-resourced, which leads, for example, to the provision of unnecessary treatments. In contrast, the report highlights other parts of the country in which healthcare needs are not being adequately met.
Differences in the incidence of illness go some way to explaining these regional differences. For example, while a lot of heart operations are performed in Eastern-Finland, the region also has a higher incidence of heart disease than the rest of the country. Nevertheless, regional disparities cannot be entirely explained by variations in the incidence of illness or other medical factors.
To this end, there is cause to place greater emphasis on preventative measures than, for example, merely increasing the number of heart surgeries performed.
Timo Keistinen, Ministerial Counsellor, Health/Medical Affairs, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 295 163 385
Ilmo Keskimäki, Research Professor, THL - National Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. +358 29 524 7256