Members of Sciana - The Health Leaders Network participate in group discussions. Photo by Salzburg Global Seminar/Katrin Kerschbaumer

Forging alliances – Health care professionals return to Salzburg to deliberate on digital and social strategies


Members illustrate efforts to develop joint projects and share insights between meetings

Members of Sciana’s 2017 cohort took advantage of their latest meeting to reflect on the complexity of health care systems worldwide – now and in the coming years.

Stepping back and looking at the determinants of health and the impacts of behavioural economics, technology, and psychology on health care can be a daunting task, but that didn’t deter these leaders and experts in health and health care from trying.

Earlier this month, Sciana’s inaugural members convened at Schloss Leopoldskron once again to participate in a four-day meeting, held in partnership with the Health Foundation (UK), Robert Bosch Stiftung (Germany), Careum Stiftung (Switzerland), in collaboration with Salzburg Global Seminar.

John Lotherington, program director at Salzburg Global Seminar, offered some reflections on the meeting, saying “One of the comments from members of the founding 2017/18 cohort, as they arrived for their third meeting at Schloss Leopoldskron, was – it feels like coming home.  And they hit the ground running.”

The programme gave members of the 2017 group the opportunity to briefly fuse with the 2018 cohort, thereby allowing for further partnerships and insight into other facets of health and health care. Lotherington explained the group “flipped the common view of expanding health care as a source of increasingly burdensome costs to an emphasis instead on its vibrant role as a sector in the economy at large, to be seen rather as an investment opportunity.”

They also explored how change can occur in health systems worldwide and discussed strategies for developing joint projects between meetings. This cooperation, as demonstrated by country teams’ prospects for pioneering innovation, is an integral segment of the Network’s aims.

After the 2018 group departed Salzburg, the 2017 cohort turned their attention to behavioural science, a key source of innovation in health and health care which members had previously expressed an interest in reviewing. Lotherington added Hannah Behrendt from the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK and Alison Buttenheim, associate director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania “introduced the group to the key principles in behavioral science and then led them through a workshop where they developed potential interventions in their own sphere of work. It looks like three of these interventions may be trialled in practice – which we look forward to tracking.”  

Following their second meeting in November, several members took turns highlighting some alliances they’d struck. They examined various aspects of digital health strategies, data platforms, and systems of exchange in social care.

Members learned three participants from the UK - Samantha Jones, Paul Bate, and Caroline Clark - travelled to Israel for a health study trip. There, they visited the Clalit Research Institute to look at integrated data systems, as well as patient engagement and management. They also examined life expectancy, posed questions on the smart use of digital data and the integration of that data across clinical settings. Their primary goal was to explore opportunities for innovation and apply some of their learnings to the NHS in the UK. The health care system in Israel was described as “more pragmatic,” with less emphasis on hospitality and more on outcomes.

Furthermore, John Palmer, from Wales, and Christina Brunnschweiler, from Switzerland, explained a pilot project dealing with the Buurtzorg onion model. This holistic, nurse-led model of care revolutionised community care in the Netherlands and is premised on the building of trusting relationships and networks, self-management, and continuity. The collaboration between Sciana members, referred to as the Zurich/Cynon pilot, was introduced in September 2017 and consists of seven teams working on several levels of social care, district nursing, and dementia care in Switzerland and Wales. This two-year programme aims to achieve more job satisfaction due to the autonomy of nurses in each of their countries and to encapsulate Buurtzorg in a virtual ward.

Palmer explained the next steps in this project are to “initiate a three-stage exchange programme: Swiss to Wales; Welsh to Switzerland; and then both teams to meet with the Buurtzorg team in the Netherlands to drive practice exchange.”

Sciana member Patrick Jahn, who joined the group via Skype on the last day of the programme, is focused on digitalisation, new nursing models and expectations for the future. On June 26, a delegation from Sachsen-Anhalt will connect with Sciana members in Salzburg, Austria for a discussion on making digital health more visible and cross-link social and digital innovation for better health care. Several decision makers will attend this event, Jahn noted, including ministers from the Ministry of Economics and Financial Affairs in Germany and around 30 partners from scientific and company backgrounds. This initiative will act as a starting point for further connections and discussions to enable a “translational region for digital health care” in southern Sachsen-Anhalt.

Moving forward, members of the first Sciana cohort pinpointed desired outcomes for the future. These included communicating the Network’s goals better and being more outward-looking in its approach; one member suggested engaging more on social media. Another aim is to acknowledge the content, methodology, and the message of the Sciana Network. As an emerging Network, the power lies in the relationships forged and the opportunities of a growing team.

“Our Swiss, German and UK Sciana members have taken the opportunity to step out of their usual professional routines and circuits to connect across borders, reflect, think afresh, and, where appropriate, work together towards systems change,” Lotherington concluded. “The sponsoring foundations and Salzburg Global have learned so much from the 2017/18 cohort, the founding members of Sciana, and look forward greatly to taking that learning forward as we develop the Sciana project with the 2018/19 and future cohorts.”