The care of older people in Sweden is funded by municipal taxes and government grants. However, in recent times many municipalities are choosing to privatise parts of the care system, letting private providers operate the services. Much of the care and treatment once provided in hospitals is now provided in the community, which makes it essential to have organised teams, systems and technologies in place to ensure high standards and efficient services.

In 2018, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, SALAR (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting ‘SKL’) have launched a guide providing advice to Swedish municipalities that want to procure ‘social security technology’ for municipal funded care. “Security” in this sense means technology which enhances the welfare, safety and independence of an older adult. For example, solutions can include care home devices that allow a user to call for help or wearable technology that detects incidents and support communication and connectivity. Recommendations and advice are given for the preparation and the design of the procurement documents, and can complement stakeholder analysis and needs analysis.

Technopolis reached out to Maria Gill, project officer at SKL and author of the guide.

What does the procurement process look like?

The guide provides support to municipalities at all stages of the procurement process. The procurement process has six steps: a planning phase, a mapping phase, a reviewing phase, the purchasing phase, the implementation phase, and the procurement management phase.

Why did you publish a guide on procurement of security-creating technology?

Previous studies in Sweden suggest that municipalities experienced several challenges in the procurement of welfare technology. The promotion of more uniform procurement documents would facilitate and improve both for municipalities and for tenderers. The ambition is that the guide will facilitate and improve future procurements of welfare technology and contribute to a more efficient and more uniformed implementation of technology across Swedish municipalities and help finance care.

What are your recommendations to municipalities?

The guide recommends that for municipalities to procure technology successfully it must be done in line with several requirements:

Requirement 1: The solution must follow functional requirements that specify what the technology seeks to accomplish, not how it shall be accomplished. Functional requirements must be clear and layout specific requirements for both testing and evaluation. One example of the functional requirement is that the technology should be able to detect if the user leaves the bed during an unexpected time (often during the night with large risk for falls). In this example, the functional requirement should not specify the type of technology that would be appropriate, e.g. a bed sensor, a floor sensor, a motion sensor or an intelligent camera solution.

Requirement 2: Market development in this field can also be driven by setting criteria that the municipality wishes the goods or services to have, overcoming market gaps and social and economic constraints (e.g. a need for a more economical system to monitor falls)

Requirement 3: The procurement needs a long-term vision, which includes new technology being implemented alongside older/existing technology system; today’s technology provides limited transparency and only a partially coherent system, whereas it is desirable in the long term for all functions to be accomplished in open systems in a coherent service. When new systems of procurement are being established they must be coherent with old technology and investments are necessary to ensure it is done lucidly.

Are there any other factors for successful procurement that you consider?

In all procurement it is important to focus not only on the requirements of the product or service but also on the requirements of the supplier in regards to the industry, market size and way in which businesses operate.

Start-ups/SMEs have some financial constraints around the development of new (riskier) technology. It is important for the procurer to ascertain that the solutions procured have sufficient financial backing, including from the private sector, so that the commercialisation of new technology is successful. In an industry where suppliers have to invest in development and/or costly hardware, a positive foundation for economic development is a key in order to enable a healthy supply chain.