Transfer of patients from health care centres to special care services: analysis of travel distances in Nordic countries

Jari Vuori, Marika Kylänen, Jonathan Tritter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. This paper highlights the importance of analysing patient transportation in Nordic circumpolar areas. The research questions we asked are as follows: How many Finnish patients have been transferred to special care intra-country and inter-country in 2009? Does it make any difference to health care policymakers if patients are transferred inter-country?

Study design. We analysed the differences in distances from health care centres to special care services within Finland, Sweden and Norway and considered the health care policy implications.

Methods. An analysis of the time required to drive between service providers using the “Google distance meter” (; conducting interviews with key Finnish stakeholders; and undertaking a quantitative analyses of referral data from the Lapland Hospital District.

Results. Finnish patients are generally not transferred for health care services across national borders even if the distances are shorter.

Conclusion. Finnish patients have limited access to health care services in circumpolar areas across the Nordic countries for 2 reasons. First, health professionals in Norway and Sweden do not speak Finnish, which presents a language problem. Second, The Social Insurance Institution of Finland does not cover the expenditures of travel or the costs of medicine. In addition, it seems that in circumpolar areas the density of Finnish service providers is greater than Swedish ones, causing many Swedish citizens to transfer to Finnish health care providers every year. However, future research is needed to determine the precise reasons for this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-518
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Circumpolar Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 License ( allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, for any purpose, even commercially, under the condition that appropriate credit is given.


  • density
  • accessibility
  • health services
  • distance


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