Providing healthcare for 10,4 million people (www.scb.se), the Swedish national healthcare system is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world and continues to improve through innovative solutions and investment in the latest technology.
The Swedish health care system is a decentralized one. The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for issues concerning social welfare; promoting people’s health and ensuring that sick people receive the care they need. The government level has the role of policy maker/regulator, supervisor, evaluator and some financial control and incentives in the area of health and care. The goverment agencies are important actors in this work, such as the National Board of Health and Welfare, the Public Health Agency, the Medical Products Agency and the Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency.
Responsibility for providing health care is devolved to the 20 regions and, in some cases, municipal governments. Swedish policy states that every region must provide its residents with good-quality health and medical care, and work to promote good health for the entire population. Regions are also responsible for dental care for residents up to the age of 21. Besides health care, the regions are also responsible for infrastructure, public transport and the economic development of the region in general.
At the most local level we find the 291 municipalities, with responsibility for social services, housing and home-based care for the elderly and disabled. Apart from this, other responsibilities include education, day care services, water and sanitation etc.
Primary care is organized in about 1,100 healthcare centers, some private but most still public. Most practices are team-based. Patients have right to choose which center to visit. Models for paying healthcare providers can vary between regions but a model based on capitation (80-90%), payments for patient visits and a small performance-based payment are most common.
Patients can contact specialists directly but the majority of the patients are referred to specialized care by their primary healthcare center. Sweden has approximately 70 regional hospitals and 7 university hospitals. Patients have free choice of hospital.