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Swedish physicians impressed by Intermountain Healthcare facilities

Published: Thursday, Sept. 5 2013 7:46 a.m. MDT

Dr. Matt Pollard, emergency room physician, speaks to a health care group from Sweden, consisting of professional leaders and senior advisers, at McKay-Dee Hospital Center in Ogden on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

OGDEN — A group of doctors from Sweden gathered in an empty patient room in the emergency room at McKay-Dee Hospital Center, writing notes, taking pictures with their iPads and asking questions.

Does this hospital admit children and adults?

Is it open 24 hours a day?

Do they ring a phone or just come in when they need help?

What if a patient steals the equipment or computer?

The 12 physicians are part of a larger group of 42 people touring hospitals within the Intermountain Healthcare system.

They share a single goal: "To give the best possible care every time in every place," said Mats Bojestig, a physician responsible for health care in a region in Sweden.

The physicians said they'd heard about Intermountain's ability to deliver consistent care to patients throughout its facilities, and they're interested in implementing something similar in their home country.

"The challenge for us is to bring ideas home and put it into action so it gives value to the patients in Sweden," Bojestig said.

Sweden's population of nearly 10 million is served through regional health care systems. Swedes pay for health care through their taxes and because of this should be able to give similar treatment to all who come through their doors, Bojestig said.

But that doesn't always happen, he said.

The visit to McKay-Dee was one stop on a tour that also included a meeting with Intermountain's Brent James, who worked to standardize patient care in the Intermountain West and United States by analyzing treatment and processes. James ranked fourth in Modern Healthcare's 50 Most Influential Physicians for 2013.

Other physicians from Sweden visited Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

The physicians visiting McKay-Dee said they were impressed that the emergency room has space for the 175 patients who come in on an average day.

Bojestig later said he saw some "fine examples" of how the physicians, nurses and staff were engaged in providing the best possible care for the patient.

"Fantastic," he said, looking at a banner of Intermountain's Healing Commitments — a list that includes helping patients "feel safe, welcome and at ease."

Physicians often have different ways of treating the same ailment, he said. That's something Intermountain has managed by encouraging doctors to follow evidence-based guidelines in prescribing or treating a patient. This uniformity is something Bojestig said he hopes to instill in physicians back home.

Intermountain is known all over the world for how it collects and stores data, he said.

During the tour, Matt Pollard, McKay-Dee's emergency room medical director and lead physician for continuous improvement in the urban north region, pointed out ways that physicians have reduced excessive testing that wastes patients' time and money.

Carl-Gustaf Elinder, head of a department for a medical center in Stockholm, said he was impressed by everything from the architecture to the comfort allowed to patients and their families.

Elinder said he also liked that hospitals in the U.S. allow for single rooms for patients, and that families can sit on couches while they wait. In Sweden, he said, the hospitals are more clinical.

"We do not have a single hospital as nice looking and as well-equipped as this one," Elinder said to the group of physicians.

One thing physicians in Sweden excel at is providing health care after a patient returns home, Bojestig said.

Pollard said he was impressed with the way Swedish physicians are tuned into their patients' needs. Each patient receives the care they need and do not have to worry about paying for services out of pocket, in part because of their socialized health system. However, he said, doctors in the socialized system have the pressure to keep treatment and cost of care low.

Sweden's physicians have the advantage of practicing in an environment that is not quite as "litigious" as the U.S., Pollard said, which allows them to recommend a minimum of testing and treatment.

Potential legal consequences for doctors in the U.S. result in many physicians practicing "defensive medicine," he said, at times recommending more tests than necessary in order to be legally protected.

At the end of the McKay-Dee visit, Pollard asked the visiting physicians to pass along any feedback they had on how Intermountain could improve its service.

"That's also how we can improve the care we deliver to our patients," he said.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

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