Department of Industrial Engineering and Management

How can the platform economy be accelerated in the health sector?


While the quality of healthcare is high in Finland, innovative and scalable platform-based solutions are not emerging. Platform-based and data-based solutions can be used to reduce the coordination and transaction costs of healthcare for society and to produce healthcare that is of significantly better quality and also more cost-effective. This additionally creates prerequisites for competitive health services and solutions aimed for the international market. In this policy brief, we present three challenges and recommendations related to innovation policy for accelerating the development of the platform economy in the healthcare sector. The challenges and recommendations are derived from the results of the Policy Rationales in the Shift to Digital Platform Economy research project funded by Business Finland.
How can the platform economy be accelerated in the health sector? Challenges and recommendations

Finland is a pioneer in the development of the health sector platform economy. The Kanta service maintained by the Social Insurance Institute (Kela) is a good example of this. It includes a prescription centre, a medicine database and My Kanta (Pentikäinen et al., 2019). However, the full potential of the platform economy and the health data associated with it has not been exploited. For example, the platform economy enables the use of machine learning in pre-screening and assessing the need for treatment (Kretschmer & Khashabi, 2020; Tenhunen et al., 2018), availability of mental health services 24/7 (Blumenfield & Levin-Scherz, 2020), a better situation picture of home care (Rotenstein & Friedman, 2020) and the avoidance of unnecessary patient transfers (Zenooz, 2020).

The platform economy can make the health sector accessible to new actors. For example, Amazon has expanded its operations to pharmacy services, in which it can use its platform to offer not only medicines but also a client health profile, prescription and payment data management and other support services (Shieber & Lunden, 2020). Platform-type multi-actor ecosystems are already being created. These include Apple HealthKit which, for example, makes transferring patient data between different actors easy (Rotenstein & Friedman, 2020).

Compatible interfaces between actors are crucial for creating platform ecosystems. They enable interconnected services including remote care, making appointments, and organising transport (Anderson et al., 2020). A key resource in the healthcare platform economy is data that can be collected on the patient in real time and in many ways throughout the patient’s history for various purposes (Chen & Patel, 2020; Kretschmer & Khashabi, 2020; Zenoz, 2020). This data can, for instance, be used to produce personalized health services (Chen & Patel, 2020) and new medicines (Parra-Moyano et al., 2020). New wellbeing solutions (wristbands and other services) can be combined with other health data, making it possible to see the big picture of the patient’s health (MEAE, 2018). The benefits of data analytics can emerge in many ways, for instance as a narrowing of health gaps between population groups, better allocation of resources, improved quality of care and increased welfare of individual patients (Neittaanmäki et al., 2019).

Lack of incentives and regulation prevent the scaling of platforms in healthcare

The current legislation encourages health sector actors to develop and maintain their solutions in their own local ecosystems.

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Politiikkasuositus Kuinka alustataloutta voidaan edistää terveysalalla

Little innovative and effective solutions using health data are created

Fragmented and siloed healthcare solutions prevent the creation of innovative and effective solutions that use health data. Health and welfare data are not accumulated, the patient cannot control their data, and the data are not transferred along as the treatment process progresses.

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Politiikkasuositus terveysalalle: potilastietoja tietokoneella

Closed and incompatible data systems hamper the development of platform-type health services

Platform-type solutions must often be highly tailored to be compatible with the treatment process.

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Politiikkasuositus terveysalalle: potilas magneettikuvauksessa


In this policy brief, we give three recommendations aiming to accelerate the platform economy in the health sector for the benefit of citizens, businesses and society. Our recommendations aim to address structural and legislative constraints in the health sector, emphasising cooperation while dismantling organisational and regional barriers.

Material and methods

These challenges and recommendations are based on the results of the Policy Rationales in the Shift to Digital Platform Economy research project funded by Business Finland. The policy recommendation is based on a comprehensive literature analysis of over 100 research articles, books and policy reports (Aalto et al., 2020) and the results of an expert workshop for the health sector. A preliminary survey was conducted for the workshop, and a background document analysing the challenges was produced. Leading experts in platform economy and digital health care from the Finnish private and public sector participated in the workshop. The workshop held in March 2021 was attended by 20 people.


Professor Robin Gustafsson
Aalto University, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management
P.O. Box 15500, 00076 AALTO
Tel. +358 50 31 60 981
[email protected]
@robingustafs #platformeconomy

Researcher Niko Lipiäinen
Aalto University, Department of Industrial Engineering and Management
P.O. Box 15500, 00076 AALTO
Tel. +358 50 33 12 189
[email protected]
@NLipiain #platformeconomy

Alustaloudessa menestyminen vaatii Suomelta uudenlaisia politiikkatoimia.

Policy Rationales in the Shift to Digital Platform Economy

The project "Policy Rationals in the Shift to Digital Platform Economy" run by Aalto University studies the impacts of digital platform economy to the business and competitiveness of firms and the current state of Finnish innovation funding. 

Department of Industrial Engineering and Management
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