The picturesque city of Ljubljana, surrounded by the green Slovenian hills, formed the background of the latest ITHACA expert visit on the third and fourth of October. 

The visit to Ljubljana constituted the sixth of nine so-called EEPE’s (Exchange of Experience and Peer Evaluation Event), during which experts from the nine different regions and from different parts of the healthcare sector, be that research, enterprise, hospitals, etc., visit each other. The experts evaluate the healthcare system, with a particular focus on healthcare innovation to promote active and healthy ageing.

The EEPE in Slovenia contained all aspects of their health care system. The nine delegations heard presentations from Slovenian clinicians, politicians, researchers, patients, companies, universities, NGOs, informal cares and eco-system representatives.

The Slovenians left an impression of a very engaged and dynamic society and health and care system, where they wish to make a difference and where they have a strong tradition for networking structures and collaborations between organizations. It is a very inter-connected society with a quadruple helix structure in all aspects of innovation activities in health and care.

Here are a few observations and takeaways from the peer evaluation session in the Ljubljana:


On the informal care issue:

Due to very strong family-oriented traditions, Slovenia has both economic and social challenges in the care sector. Informal carers, primarily family members, fill 70-80 percent of the care needs of the elderlies. The strong tradition of informal care, however, puts pressure on the informal carers to take care of their own family member for instance, leaving them less time to take care of their own jobs. The informal care challenge was a recurrent topic during the visit.


On health care policy and strategy:

Slovenia has an impressive strategy for Active Healthy Ageing with multi-stakeholder involvement adapted in 2017. They will be working on setting up a concreate action plan. For this, two pilots were launched on ICT in health and another one to better approach long-term care for Slovenian citizens. Two pilots were initiated to study what is needed for the action plan.

The inverse process impressed the visiting delegates. Many delegates commented that this might be a good way to set up a more precise action plan. Normally we create action plans and then we implement it by pilots. So using pilot for future policy development processes is an inspiration many might take back home to try out.

It is good that the Active Healthy Ageing strategy will be followed up by a concreate action plan once the results of the pilots are clear. But would it already be possible to set some concreate goals for where Slovenia wants to be in five years with the strategy?

The Ministry of Social Affairs have been coordinating the setup of the new Active Healthy Ageing strategy. It could be good to include the Health Ministry more in the strategy - they were only marginally mentioned. The strategies' long-term goals might be easily adapted by the Health Ministry.


On new solutions and implementation:

Like in many other partner countries, there is a gap between innovation and new solutions and permanent implementation of those solutions. Many of the stakeholders stressed the aspect of lack of finances. There is policy for innovation but no policy for the scaling up of useful solutions in the health and care system. It would be important to find a way to have a better dialogue with the governmental organisations responsible for this, in order to find points of improvement.

Slovenia is a small country with many good solutions – they could focus on expanding their solutions to the international market as the country has a limited amount of clients and customers.  


On ecosystems and cooperation across the health and care sector 

The delegation stressed the need for a structured sharing of learnings in the health care sector in Slovenia. Sharing of results (both successes and failures) could be done in the eco-systems. It seems that there is a lot of innovation, but do you learn from it to improve your actions and to create bigger impact?

The visitors were presented to five different networks; some clusters and some eco-systems. It is not clear, if the networks have clear goals and if the eco-systems have clear strategies and goals. The Eco-systems include many diverse and important stakeholders, but it was not mentioned if the they could be strengthened? It is important to reflect about the composition of the partnerships and if they potentially miss to include strategically important partners in order to achieve the wished change.