Katharina Koch
Solving coordination problems in elderly care: how stakeholders in Germany and Sweden assess the role of digital tools

5th Transforming Care Conference, (virtual conference), June 24th to June 26th, 2021

The coordination of healthcare (HC) and long-term care (LTC) services for the elderly is a major issue in all welfare states. As the elderly ́s complex care needs involve many different actors and professions, communication is a major challenge for care coordination. Digital tools are often regarded as an effective device for solving these problems. However, can these devices bridge the various systemic, financial and professional gaps and barriers between health and social care services? This paper analyses how the main stakeholder organizations in the field assess the situation in their country, what they think about the coordination of care, which challenges they identify for communication across professions and systems, and which solutions they prefer. In doing so, two specific interfaces between HC and LTC are addressed: coordination in the context of hospital discharge and coordination within the home care setting. Particular attention is given to the role of digital tools in improving care coordination. With Germany and Sweden, two countries are compared that represent different welfare regimes and are at very different stages of implementing digital tools in elderly care. Moreover, the institutional and organizational barriers to such improvements also vary between the countries. Using Mayring ́s Qualitative Content Analysis, we analysed data from 27 expert interviews with representatives of stakeholder organizations in Germany and Sweden and from position papers with a focus on digitalization issued by key institutions. Results show that most stakeholders regard digital devices as effective tools in improving care coordination. However, there are limitations, which are mostly linked to the countries’ specific institutional setting. Although Germany and Sweden are at different developmental stages in implementing digital tools, analysis revealed a surprising number of similar barriers. In closing the paper, we discuss if those findings can be interpreted as a tendency of convergence between those countries.