Redefining Healthcare

A conversation with Managing Director of DIREC, Thomas Riisgaard Hansen

CEO and President of Falck, Jakob Riis shares his conversation with Managing Director of DIREC (Digital Research Centre Denmark), Thomas Riisgaard Hansen. Thomas considers digitalisation an imperative for health as a mean not only for optimisation but also to create better outcomes.

Jakob Riis: In order to sustain Denmark’s competitiveness, what current key strengths do you consider important and maybe also some that need further strengthening?

Thomas Riisgaard Hansen: I do consider our Nordic values (for example trust and our approach to democracy) to be one of our strengths. In various contexts, I often hear that a prerequisite for enhancing our competitiveness against countries like China and the US, is to strengthen our effort within STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]. These skills are of course important, but we need to be creative to be competitive globally. Using our unique Scandinavian outlook and values like trust as the foundation for new digital services and delegating even more decision power to local decision makers, would allow for better implementation of digital solutions.

“I do consider Nordic values to be one of our strengths”

As an example, in connection with tenders for digital innovation projects, the decision needs to be placed closer to the actual users, it could e.g. be the local hospital directors. Of course, this would also entail being accountable for the results. This way the decisions and the execution would be closer to the line management. They are closest to the everyday routines, challenges etc.

Also, we have a long and unique history of strong foundations (such as the Novo Nordisk and the Lundbeck Foundations) supporting research. This could play an even stronger role in strengthening the small and medium enterprises and the innovation power in order to build the C25 companies of tomorrow, before getting acquired by investors outside Denmark. This is very unique for Denmark and could be activated even further to strengthen Denmark’s competitive advantage.

“I think there should be an obligation for the Public Partner to actually implement the solutions”

Jakob Riis: You indirectly touched upon some of the barriers for being more at the forefront within innovation already. But I am curious to know your opinion on these and what to consider the most important barriers to overcome?

Thomas Riisgaard Hansen: Firstly, we should not forget, that we have a monopoly when it comes to delivering healthcare services. I do not necessarily see it as a problem, but it will inhibit the innovation within this area unless we do something to mitigate the problem.

We have great success when it comes to doing pilot projects, also with Public Private Partnerships, but when it comes to the subsequent implementation it becomes difficult. I often hear about a successful pilot that has a hard time being implemented afterwards. This might have something to do with the predefined success criteria and the accountability for these projects. In Public Private Partnerships, I think there should be an obligation for the Public Partner to actually implement the solutions in the service delivery and/or offering, if the pilot turns out successfully. This would also mean a better balance for risk sharing and responsibility. For instance, the Executive Management at the hospitals should be held accountable for delivering concrete results of the innovation projects. By activating the healthcare sector and holding central players accountable, our time to market and thereby also export, would be easier and faster.

Jakob Riis: So if you, based on your view on our strengths and barriers, were to give a piece of advice to the Danish government on how to strengthen our competitive advantage, what would that be?

Thomas Riisgaard Hansen: The overall headline of my pieces of advice would be to “activate and strengthen” key elements of our competitive edge: 1) Activate and strengthen the role of the foundations in creating the C25 companies of tomorrow. The system is unique, 2) activate and strengthen the healthcare sector in developing and implementing innovative solutions leading to better healthcare outcomes - this means from decision power to being held accountable for the results. We need to see an increased success rate when it comes to implementing great solutions. This would be key to export and 3) activate and strengthen the local decision power to the line management in the primary sector. Another way could be to earmark a certain amount of the budget to innovative projects with higher risk, thereby encouraging working with innovative companies and start-ups within this space.

About Thomas Riisgaard Hansen

Managing Director of DIREC (Digital Research Centre Denmark), DIREC is a Danish national centre for Research, Innovation and Education in digital technologies with the purpose of expanding the capacity within research and education in Denmark.


Ph.D. in Computer Science and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, California.


Thomas Riisgaard Hansen has been working within the field of both research and business engaging actively within the entrepreneurial environment for example as a co-founder of the IT company Cetrea, that develops advanced IT solutions for hospitals.


Thomas Riisgaard Hansen

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