Published October 22, 2009

Public hopes that service vouchers will improve preventive healthcare and shorten waiting times

This conclusion is based on data collected during the first five weeks of a public online discussion.

Service vouchers should be used to shorten waiting times and enhance preventive services in healthcare. This conclusion is based on data collected during the first five weeks of a public online discussion.

Sitra opened a public online discussion on service vouchers on 1 September 2009. During the first five weeks, a total of 428 people participated, 191 men and 237 women. The participants represented all age groups, from under 20 to over 70 years of age.

One-third of participants work in social health services. Two-thirds represent the general public and the users’ perspectives on service vouchers.

Participants were first asked the question, “For what purposes could service vouchers be used and what would be the benefits?” The responses to this question were collected, as were ideas presented by respondents. In addition, participants were asked to evaluate ideas suggested by other respondents.

Sitra received 325 responses to the question on service vouchers and 2,890 evaluations. This means that each idea was evaluated nine times on average, and that everyone who participated in the evaluation process expressed his or her opinion on seven ideas.

Preventive measures and faster access to healthcare seen as important

The online discussion provided important and interesting information on public opinion. Based on the responses, people would like to make service vouchers available for preventive measures, such as alleviating loneliness among older people and reducing waiting times in healthcare.

The evaluations submitted by respondents indicate that people are also worried about frailty and debility among older people. They hope that service vouchers could be used for cultural and recreational services, as well as other services that support mental and physical agility, and create opportunities for older people to spend time together and engage in various activities.

“Judging from the responses, the service voucher could mark a new type of revival for non-governmental organizations in terms of producing these services,” says Development Director Tuomo Melin, head of the service voucher project at Sitra.

People also hope that service vouchers could be used to shorten waiting times in social services, especially in healthcare. Freedom of choice is also regarded as important, i.e. the freedom to choose the service provider.

Hoping for a fulfilling everyday life

Based on the collected data, the three most popular topics were home-help services, child care and care for the elderly. People feel that service vouchers could help to make everyday life easier and more fulfilling. Service vouchers would also make it possible for older people to live at home longer.

Caregivers could use service vouchers to purchase support services and recreational services. For families with children, service vouchers would allow for more flexible solutions to temporary problems with child care arrangements.

The following are some examples of responses taken from the online public discussion:

“Home-help services
Service vouchers could be used to purchase home-help services provided by non-governmental organizations for disadvantaged older people: shopping, errands and other services.”

“Child care
When you’ve been at home with a sick child, and you cannot stay away from work any longer, service vouchers could be used to hire a babysitter for the time you are at work.”

When evaluating the ideas presented by others, participants regarded purchasing medical and dental services as the most important uses for service vouchers. They stressed the importance of being able to use the services of their choice. The flexibility of these services was regarded as equally important.

”I would like
to be able to choose the doctor I consult and healthcare service provider I use. After all, health is the most personal matter I can think of.”

The participants were most in agreement about the importance of mental health and dental services. The strongest differences of opinion concerned social services for the disabled.

”When life hurts
mental health clients don’t have the strength to navigate the current jungle of social ‘security’ for the help they need.”

Responses reflect gender, age and background

The ideas and evaluations presented by respondents are, for the most part, surprisingly reflective of their backgrounds. Healthcare services and care for the elderly were the most discussed topics among men, and they regarded transportation services and dental care services as most important. Women discussed home-help services and child care the most. They regarded home-help services, care for the elderly and medical and dental services as the most important uses for service vouchers.

Among men, home-help services were evaluated to be the 13th most important and child care the 11th most important uses. Women regarded transportation services as the 13th most important use for service vouchers.

Respondents under 30 years of age saw care for the elderly and transportation services as most important, while respondents over 50 years of age were most appreciative of exercise services and services for caregivers. Respondents in the latter age group regarded care for the elderly as the seventh most important use for service vouchers. In the former group, exercise services were ranked as the 10th most important use.

Public discussion on service vouchers continues

Members of the public can suggest new uses for service vouchers and evaluate ideas at www.sitra.fi/palveluseteli (in finnish). The discussion also continues in the social media, in such communities as Facebook and Twitter.

The public online discussion is based on a platform created by Fountain Park, a Helsinki-based company specialising in proactive leadership. Its expertise was also employed in launching the project in the social media. During the first five weeks, the service voucher project attracted more than 1,200 friends on Facebook. The project page offers an opportunity to follow the public discussion and provides information on new reports, documents and videos related to service vouchers.

More information

Development Director Tuomo Melin, tel. 040 183 4158, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi
Consultant Eija Seppänen, tel. 040 508 3645, firstname.lastname@fountainpark.com
Project Manager Mari Patronen, tel. 040 801 6008, firstname.lastname@tampere.fi