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Medicine meets technology in Stavanger

Norway’s Stavanger is a city with much to celebrate and even more to look forward to.

The third largest city and metropolitan area in Norway, Stavanger has numerous energy and technology companies, as well as a major university and hospital. The city has a rich life science and research landscape, which only promises to grow with several initiatives in the pipeline and a new local hospital under way.

A technology powerhouse

Long known for its strength in the energy sector as the home to numerous oil and gas companies, Stavanger is now starting to veer toward health and medicine. The city is a technology powerhouse, hosting more than 400 technology businesses. Some of those technological resources developed for the oil and gas industry now are being applied to the medical field, said Arne Hansson, Rannestad general manager of 37 ºC, the organizers of a conference on digitalizing health care at the Stavanger Forum in June.

Collaborations on biotech and health science

The Stavanger University Hospital and The University of Stavanger work together in many areas of biotechnology and the health sciences. The region is considered a leader in the fields of patient safety, biomedical signal processing and emergency medicine. The university, which is a member of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities, also is planning to construct a new Faculty of Health Sciences building, which will be connected to the hospital.

“We already have a close collaboration on PhD programs [with the hospital] and have shared professorships and share research structure and laboratories,” said Susanna King, a communications advisor for the university.

Health sciences, biochemistry, biomedical diagnostics, paramedicine and patient safety are some of the areas in which the two institutions work together.

Stavanger University Hospital

Stavanger University Hospital. Illustration: Aart Architects

Combining medicine and technology

Medical doctors from the hospital and petroleum scientists from the university also collaborate through the Norwegian Pumps & Pipes program, based on a model from Houston, Texas, in the U.S. The program uses pipes to show blood flow through the body. The University of Stavanger also has degree programs in nursing and pre-hospital critical care.

“We’ve been working a lot with diagnostic tools for medical applications through computer sciences,” added Dr. Øystein Lund Bø, PhD, dean of the University of Stavanger’s Faculty of Science and Technology.

The university also is part of the Norwegian Smart Care Cluster (NSCC), a group of more than 115 companies and 45 municipalities and government agencies involved with smart technology and its uses in healthcare, especially as more people need to be treated at home. “Combining medicine and technology is interesting,” Bø noted. “Smart welfare technology is also linked to diagnostics and computer-assisted medicine.”

Øystein Lund Bø. Photo: Monica Larsen

Another university partner is the Laerdal Foundation for Acute Medicine, founded by Stavanger-based Laerdal Medical, which helps students with simulation training such as CPR and other emergency medical interventions.  Simulation training is a priority for region.

The hospital addition also has generated plans for more joint university-hospital programs. “I think this will increase opportunities to be more closely connected,” said Dr. Kristin Akerjordet, PhD, dean of the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences.  “We will find new networks and collaborations.”

Changes in healthcare technology and the aging of the population, coupled with a projected shortage of nurses, are among the challenges in which the institutions will be involved. “We have to see how we can work more efficiently and see how nurses can be included in that planning,” Akerjordet noted.

SHARE Centre for Resilience

The expansion is coming at a good time; the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences reorganized in January into three departments: Caring and Ethics, Public Health, and Quality and Health Technology, to encourage more interaction among departments and promote research and high-quality education, according to Akerjordet. “We have a strategy focusing on responsibility for society.

In keeping with that, the university is home to the SHARE Centre for Resilience in Healthcare, a multi-disciplinary effort to improve patient safety by reviewing adverse events in healthcare. Unlike some other patient safety initiatives, SHARE’s goal is not to assign blame for errors, but rather focus on what was learned from an event and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Among SHARE’s other goals are to identify and reduce risks in healthcare, evaluate the effectiveness of quality and safety measures, review cultural and organizational factors and study patient involvement and experiences. “It’s a new area of research on how to confront patient safety,” noted Akerjordet.

A good location for conferences

The University also is involved in community events, including coordinating Stavanger’s annual Science Week, which involves 14 research organizations. Among the offerings are a research square where visitors can see, touch, taste and do simple experiments as they learn about the research in the region.

And the city has become a draw for professionals interested in the latest medical trends; for the second year, Stavanger’s conference on digitalizing health care drew about 220 attendees in June, who discussed ways digitalization could change and personalize medicine, as well as networked. The topic was chosen based on input from partners and stakeholders, said Rannestad, Feedback from this year’s event has been very positive, he added.

“It helped the Nordic companies to get access to other markets, such as Germany, the European Union and the U.S.,” Rannestad said.

Next year’s 37 ºC’s life science technology and business conference likely will focus on digital health as well, he said. “It is one of the global trends in health care and Norway is in a good position for it because of extensive health data,” Rannestad continued. “There is huge potential for that.”

Stavanger’s educated population and extensive technology network mean it will continue to be a good location for conferences and development, he added. “There is very good technology and some digital companies. It’s important to have all the ingredients for a conference, and we have that base here.”

Kristin Akerjordet

Kristin Akerjordet