The Swedish healthcare culture
Healthcare is a central feature of the Swedish welfare state. It is the largest of all public sectors, and accounts for a large proportion of public consumption. A decent healthcare service with high accessibility and quality also constitutes a valuable resource for the entire population. It is our most important insurance against ill health.
One of the cornerstones of the Swedish healthcare system is that the cost is spread over the entire population via tax. Another is that healthcare is to be available to all on equal terms throughout the country.
Another cornerstone is the strong position enjoyed by the patient. All patients are to feel a sense of involvement in their dealings with the healthcare services; they are entitled to choose their doctor within primary care and suitable treatment when several medically justified therapeutic options are available, and to obtain a second opinion in the event of a difficult or complicated diagnosis. Patients are also entitled to demand detailed and comprehensive information on their condition and the therapy offered. It is therefore important that the healthcare personnel with whom patients have contact have a good command of Swedish and can make themselves understood in conversations with the patient.
In recent years, many different organisational forms for healthcare have been tried. The previously rather strict control of the healthcare sector has been abandoned, creating greater opportunities for local organisational solutions.
The Swedish healthcare services
Practical responsibility for the healthcare services in Sweden rests on the county and municipal councils, which are known as the healthcare principals. The municipal councils are responsible for the care and nursing of elderly and disabled people who do not require medical help. The county council has responsibility for all other healthcare services. The private healthcare sector is relatively small, but has expanded considerably over the past few years.