In the fall of 2007, Johanna Kaipio – then Viitanen – was watching the Finnish TV programme 45 minuuttia (“45 minutes”), when she had an idea that would change the course of her career. The episode in question dealt with the shortcomings of electronic health record systems used in hospitals. “I thought then that if the systems are so difficult to use, perhaps I could research them,” Kaipio says.
Kaipio has researched IT systems in healthcare for a decade now. In addition to academia, she has been involved in two extensive client and patient information system procurement processes. In September, she started working as a Professor of Practice at Aalto University’s Department of Computer Science.
Kaipio is interested in health and social care information systems because developing them through technical expertise is a way to help clients and patients in the healthcare and social welfare field. “I enjoy working with people from different backgrounds, such as physicians, nurses, and social care workers. It is a meeting point where the best new ideas and insights come together.”
When Kaipio was a child, her father (a Master of Science in Technology) and mother (kindergarten teacher) nudged her towards mathematical subjects. In addition to mathematics, her interests in upper secondary school also included psychology. It was this combination that led her to apply for the Department of Electrical and Communications Engineering at Helsinki University of Technology. “In my studies, I was able to apply my knowledge of both psychology and mathematics. User-centred design and usability are a natural continuation of this interest.”
Technology is present in all fields. Psychology and cognitive science are prime examples of where it can be seen. Kaipio emphasises that there are several different angles for approaching technology.
The industry could do with more female students. Currently, women make up less than a third of students in the field of technology. In computer science, the distribution is even more unbalanced. Kaipio would like to tell girls and young women that students in the field do not need to be ready experts or even particularly technology oriented. “A lifelong interest in coding is not a requirement for seeking a career in technology. Being enthusiastic about new things and interested in working with technology and information systems go a long way.”
Developing a single solution for various work environments is challenging
According to Kaipio, healthcare information systems have evolved in the last ten years, though there is still much be done. “Finland is a forerunner in many aspects, such as the utilisation of advantaged IT systems’ functionalities and health information exchange at the national level. This is often overlooked, as we are so critical of our own work.”
Particular critique has been directed at the Apotti project, which Kaipio also worked on during 2013–2015. The system was first introduced at Peijas hospital in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) in November 2018. Its use is now being expanded within HUS and the metropolitan area municipalities gradually until the end of 2020.
Although the project is considered costly and has been criticised, Kaipio reminds that Apotti is a pioneer project. It is the first in the world to combine social and healthcare information in the same system, while also factoring in the field’s evolving landscape.
Social welfare and healthcare as a field is more complex than many, involving e.g. several legal and interoperability requirements around information management and security. Procurement processes are often long, which makes it difficult to predict all that is needed for the IT system to work upon implementation.
It is not until recent years that usability has become a focus area in healthcare information systems in Finland. Current systems have become outdated and they have reached the end of their development cycle.