VIS – solving challenges in future health care

An interview with Kari Øritsland, Customer Responsible Social Challenges in VIS

VIS – Vestlandets Innovasjonsselskap – is owned by several Norwegian higher education institutions and has a number of research partners within science, health and business. To get better insight into what is happening in the health sector, we met with VIS’ Customer Responsible Social Challenges, Kari Øritsland, for an interview.

For those who are not entirely familiar with VIS and your offerings – can you tell us a little bit about it and what you do?

VIS stands for Vestlandets Innovasjonsselskap (West Norway’s innovation company), and we’re owned by a number of research institutions. In essence, we work towards two missions: On one hand, we are commercialising research ideas and meeting society’s needs in solving problems. On the other hand, we are to contribute with innovation in the region. For example, we’re a workspace hub for startups and innovative businesses, like EGGS. Combining the two, as part of an innovation ecosystem, we can find synergies between different business clusters, public services and research institutions to create innovative solutions.

You’re working on a project where you aim to lift service innovation within technology transfer organisations/offices in Norway. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, we’re working on an initiative from The Research Council of Norway, where we’re looking at how these different organisations can cooperate. This includes six different programs, where one of them is focused on services in the health sectors. To develop good healthcare services, we need to take another perspective, apart from the medical one. It’s necessary to take a service perspective and make use of technology and communication tools, to design the patient journey. This is a completely new area, and a new way of looking at health care.

What is the motivation behind the project?

The mutual understanding is that in order to make investments more profitable, all TTOs (Technology Transfer Organisations) need to collaborate closer on a national level. This requires developing a collaborative culture and removing existing barriers. Healthcare services was the arena where we, VIS, can contribute with service innovation, and that’s something I’ve been working with for many years. I have a design background, and I know that there are many concepts – design thinking for instance – that can be applied and generate value for the users.

What made you choose to work with EGGS specifically?

We don’t have the capacity to work on this project by ourselves. We simply needed more man (or women) power, and there you were! We were lucky to have the EGGS team having moved in with us, so the collaboration started quite naturally, basically with a chat by the coffee machine. Of course, it wasn’t all by chance – we were aware of your experience within the health and maritime sectors, and that you could provide specialised competence within service design.

What has the experience of working with EGGS Design been like?

I’ve felt that you’re very knowledgeable and professional. We’ve come far with your help, and it’s been essential that you can provide such a broad skillset and varied competences. Also, it’s of great value having someone come from the outside that can take a step back and tell us what we’re looking at, so to speak. Getting help to visualise the process and make sure that we’re all on the same page is important.

The designer is there to be unafraid. He or she needs to ask the difficult questions and dare to question the assumptions that the others have.
Kari Øritsland

What would you say is the main role of designers in innovation projects like these?

The designer is there to be unafraid. He or she needs to ask the difficult questions and dare to question the assumptions that the others have. It’s the designer’s role to be curious and to explore the problem and possible solutions. In general, I’d say it’s very important to have different roles in an innovation project. We all play different parts. An external facilitator, like a designer, has the mandate to open up the process and improve its dynamics. That’s something that the project manager, who is responsible for budget and timelines, can’t do effectively.

Do you have any tips on what businesses who are on service innovation journeys should to think about?

You need to design the process itself – the process is everything. You need to iterate and find problems and solutions, step by step. It’s a journey, so that’s why it’s important to have people onboard who know how to do this - how to facilitate, how to visualise where you’re going. Also, it’s essential to have the right people in the right place. In an innovation process there are many different roles that need to be played, and they need to be played by the right people.

Innovation is about the need behind it, not about technology.
Kari Øritsland

Kari Øritsland, Customer Responsible Social Challenges in VIS

Any pitfalls that should be avoided?

Never wait for anything to be perfect. That won’t get you anywhere. Innovating requires that you dare to share your ideas and your contribution. Even though it’s not perfect or complete. Another common mistake is to not involve stakeholders early enough in the process. It’s absolutely vital that everyone who is or will be affected somehow is involved from the start. Otherwise, we might get the wrong understanding of the problem and, hence, the wrong solution. Innovation is about the need behind it, not about technology.

If we don’t act now, and start working smarter and more collaboratively, there will be a future collapse of the health care system.
Kari Øritsland

What challenges do you see for the future when it comes to technology transfer in the health sector?

I think it’s important to develop more collaborations between the private and public sectors. For this to happen, these two cultures understand each other better. It’s necessary to build competence within the public sectors’ procurement departments. The need to become better at buying services. Also, the private players need to build a better understanding of the public sector, its needs and processes. So, there is definitely a culture barrier there, that hinders fruitful collaboration. In some cases, we can even see that there is a resistance towards allowing private actors inside the public sphere. And in many public institutions, there is also an, understandable, fear of making mistakes. This makes it difficult to innovate. On the other hand, I think we’re experiencing a shift. There is a lot of political willpower and initiative to build a stronger and more resilient health care in Norway. And that’s absolutely necessary. If we don’t act now, and start working smarter and more collaboratively, there will be a future collapse of the health care system.

When it comes to mental health, I see a lot of opportunities to lower the threshold for, especially, young people to seek help.
Kari Øritsland

What opportunities do you see?

I think that there are great opportunities to create better patient experiences and better service. There are many things that patients in the future can do at home, without having to visit a clinic. Being able to do many of the treatments in the home environment can improve the health care experience for many people, and reduce the amount of stress. When it comes to mental health, I see a lot of opportunities to lower the threshold for, especially, young people to seek help. We can use technology to our advantage to reach out to these people. For example, there are possibilities to use self- monitoring and gamification – things that can encourage these people to receive help.

You’ve talked quite a lot about autonomous forms of health care – home care and self-monitoring. What about those who need, or want, the more traditional forms of care?

Yes, we have to remember that home treatment, for example, doesn’t suit everyone. Some conditions will still require hospital treatment, and some people will not feel comfortable being treated at home, or doing self-monitoring. For these people, there need to be other options available. That’s why it’s vital that responsibility and ethics are always on top of the agenda when we develop new services and systems. Everyone must be, and feel, included in these new service models.

How do you see the health sector development in Bergen? What’s happening, what needs are there?

There are a lot of things happening! We are involved in setting up an innovation HUB, and building a Smart Care Cluster locally. There’s also a very active political debate going on, - on how we can adapt health care to each patient’s individual biology. This is a hot topic ethically speaking, but with many possibilities - both in public healthcare and commercially speaking. It It would enable better, more effective care, but it also raises questions around patient safety and privacy as there are very sensitive data involved. I think it’s very important that this debate happens openly and with complete transparency towards the public. Everyone needs to be aware of both opportunities and risks.

Sounds interesting?

Sigrun Vik

You should talk to Head of Health & Welfare
Sigrun Vik
+47 922 33 887

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