About Helseatlas

In Norway, it is an express goal that the whole population shall have equitable access to health services across geographical areas and social classes. The healthcare atlases on Helseatlas.no are a tool for comparing the population's use of health services in different geographical areas, regardless of where the patients actually receive treatment.

Helseatlas.no is a web-based map service. The atlases are a threefold product comprising an interactive map of Norway, fact sheets and a report that explains the method used and provide a more detailed description of each patient sample.

Read more here: Communicating statistics by means of maps

The information is presented in the form of rates for the number of events per service (for example the number of surgical procedures/consultations per 100,000 population) for the population in the Norwegian health trusts’ hospital referral areas. A hospital referral area is the municipalities and city districts that a health trust is responsible for providing services for. For some health services, it may be relevant to show whether the treatment in question has been provided at public hospitals or by private treatment providers under public funding contracts, while in other cases the proportion of patients that receive a certain health service is shown.

We have little prior knowledge about the distribution of health services in the Norwegian population. It is known from other countries (including the UK and USA) that there is considerable variation in the population’s use of health services, and that experts disagree about the benefits. Differences in use could indicate overuse and overtreatment, but they could also mean that some sections of the population are not receiving the health services they are entitled to. Such information has not been made systematically available in Norway until the Helseatlas.no website was launched.

Helseatlas.no was developed at Northern Norway Regional Health Authority's Centre for Clinical Documentation and Evaluation (SKDE) in order to provide such information about conditions in Norway. In 2015, the Ministry of Health and Care Services tasked Northern Norway RHA and Western Norway RHA with developing a national healthcare atlas in cooperation with the Norwegian Directorate of Health. Førde health trust manages this assignment on behalf of Western Norway RHA.The purpose of the atlas is to contribute to equitable provision of services of good quality. The right services shall be offered to the right patients, and overuse, underuse and unnecessary use of resources shall be avoided.

Target groups

Healthcare professionals

The healthcare atlas can identify variation, but it cannot determine what constitutes the ‘correct’ level or practice. The analyses can contribute to evidence-based debate in the specialist communities that can decide what constitutes good practice.


Knowledge about the population’s actual use of different health services is an important tool for prioritisation and resource allocation, as well as in connection with the planning of service provision.

The national health authorities

In order to monitor the objective of equitable health services and ensure equitable distribution of resources and quality.

The general public

We assume that information about the distribution of such an important public resource as health services is a matter of public interest. Such information is made available to us all via Helseatlas.no.

Hospital referral areas

Good and equal health and care services for the population, regardless of place of residence or other socio-demographic factors, is a fundamental value underlying Norwegian health policy. Four regional health authorities (HRFs) are responsible for providing specialist health services within their region. On behalf of the HRFs, the subsidiary health trusts, usually consisting of one or more hospitals, provide specialist services to the population living within their hospital referral areas. The geographical areas used in the health atlases correspond to the hospital referral areas of the Norwegian health trusts, defined by the municipal (or city) district residency of the patient population. Thus, the atlases describe distribution of health services between hospital referral areas, regardless of where the services were provided. 

Norway has a free, universal healthcare system. The health atlases cover publicly funded specialist health services, including services provided by specialists in private practice under a public reimbursement contract. Private specialist services fully paid by the patient are not covered.