New technology and entrepreneurship have also stimulated rapid development of new companies, innovative health services, and vibrant innovation clusters. In Finland we are in a very good positon to advance digital health-related research and businesses and therefore promote overall health of the population.
"Our demographic development forces us to think of new ways to provide healthcare services more efficiently. We are on our way to a system where patients are at the center of health care," said Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila at the Health Transformations Conference at Aalto University in Otaniemi on Tuesday 23 May.
"We have a long tradition and extremely good coverage of electronic health records. Our national infrastructure gives us a good possibility to collect and share information among all social and health providers," said Mattila.
"At Aalto University we have identified this topic as one of the three key challenges to be solved by collaboration between and across disciplines. ICT and digitalization combined with technology, design and business will allow us to make major contributions in examining how smarter use of data can improve health and well-being – and stimulate the economy," said Tuula Teeri, President of Aalto University.
Focus on the patient, outcome-based care, eHealth and exponential development were the key themes at the Health Transformations Conference. Several fresh approaches for the use of digital health were served by senior policy makers, researchers and executives across the EU.
Artificial Intelligence is one of the most inspiring and promising uses of health data we see. In healthcare applications, artificial intelligence analyses all available data in a few seconds and improves the accuracy of the diagnosis.
"Digital health, including smarter use of data and Artificial Intelligence technology, for example, will provide opportunities for innovations in both private and public sector. This will, no doubt, have a significant economic impact. We will see the most exciting innovations taking place at the interaction of public and private sectors," said Pekka Soini, Director General of Tekes.
Understanding the impact of technology on health care is important. Even though technology is advancing rapidly, we must remember that the true aim is improved health and wellbeing, not the technology or the data itself. This is importanst especially for us Finns as forerunners in the digital health sector.
It is crucial to develop collaboration and synergy between pharma and medtech industry. "We should develop common platforms and paths which helps our patients to reach right, innovative cure and solutions in right time", says Managing Director Laura Simik of Sailab, an alliance for international and national medtech companies in Finland.
Ethical aspects of patient privacy
Reforming the health care system is about making it focus more centrally on the patient. People's preferences are one aspect. Do I want to live a long life – and in which conditions?" said Corinne Le Goff, Senior Vice President of Amgen.
Personalized healthcare is created from a combination of biology with the help of biobanks and patient-generated information. The biggest benefits will come from making better use of data on patient outcomes. The engagement of patients and health care professionals is important in the health transformation. Security is one of the key words in digital health issues.
"The biggest data challenge is balancing the patient privacy and the using of health data in the research," said Cornelius Schmalz, Head of Unit for Strategy for E-Health at the European Commission.
The systemic change is very critical.
"We are talking all the time about risks of data protection. Why don't we talk about the risks of not sharing the data?" said Olli Carpén, the Professor and Scientific Director at Helsinki Biobank.
"There is no reason to think that data would be safer inside a single country's borders," said Xavier Prats Monné, Director General for Health and Food Safety at European Commission.
But how to persuade the government to invest in reseach of health data?
"The evidence is pretty strong that the outcomes are good using patient data systemically," said Ian Forde, Senior Policy Analyst at OECD Health Division.
"Without research today, there will be no outcomes later on. The data analyses can be profitable in half a year: but in research the cycle is really long and the results are not predictable," said Samuel Kaski, Director in Finnish Centre of Excellence in Computational Inference Research and Professor of Computer Science at Aalto University.
Regulatory environment must protect the data assets and at the same time enable and encourage research and development. Here the EU also plays an important role. It requires common standards and certification.
Now it's time to start building up systems supporting the transformation and understanding the big picture.
Different actors from public agencies to private companies should work together. Integrating the ethical aspects of the health ecosystem is the deepest part of the transformation. In the task of understanding all the necessary information Health System Science is perhaps needed.
"Who owns the data of someone who is dead?" said Prats Monné.
What should our health systems look like? In 10 years' time algorithmic decisions, artificial intelligence and big data will by the visions be reality on health care.
"And talking about visions: 10 years is just around the corner," said Corinne Le Goff.
Professor Paul Lillrank from Aalto University pointed out that the future will bring challenges for creating other types of data we don't have now. "We're now trying to predict outcomes that don't exist yet."
"In order to really break through we should be moving from sick care to health care. Startups are the driving force of the innovations," said Tuomas Poskiparta, Partner of Nightingale Health.
The Health Capital Helsinki initiative is an especially powerful example of attempts to improve the use of patient data. It aims to make Helsinki Metropolitan Region the best research, innovation and business development platform in Northern Europe.
"Finland's potential as a global health innovation hub has been recognized also globally; as an example, IBM's first Watson Health Center of Excellence in the Nordic was established in Helsinki, which emphasizes the unique value of our health data and our research ecosystem," said Tuula Palmén, the Head of Project Office of Health Capital Helsinki.
"I am personally inspired how health data can be used in biobanks to discover the basic mechanisms of disease and human function in general," said Andres Metspalu, Director of the Estonian Genome Center at University of Tartu, one of the true pioneers in this field of research.
Genetic data can predict what will happen in the future. For the society it is much cheaper to be proactive and focus on prevention rather than treating the illnesses.
The Principal of Boston Consulting Group, Arne Köhler, names several inspiring users of health data:
"US-based Health Tap is a great example of an innovative company. They offer a service for remote care where the patient can self-diagnose using their user-friendly system and interact with a doctor or a nurse when needed. They have evolved from real-time advice, to postponed, to algorithm-enabled diagnosis. Their AI is trained by HealthTap's network of more than 105,000 top doctors. The AI instantaneously translates patient symptoms into personalized, doctor-recommended courses of action. Just imagine the impact that can have on our health system!"
Collaboration, co-operation and open source innovation are the key catalysts for companies to change the future game and to succeed in global competition across the Europe.
"When dealing with practical projects it doesn't matter where the experts exist," said Tuula Palmén.
CEO Jani Ahonala presented an application from Noona Healthcare that tracks cancer patients and sends info to their mobile devices if something goes wrong. "The missing link of health data is the information we can get straight from the patients about their wellbeing and symptoms," Ahonala said.
"Finding ideas in co-operation and open discussions is the key. Representatives from Noona Healthcare opened the discussion for us," said director Visa Honkanen. Working at the Helsinki University Hospital he is focused on eHealth and digitalization and bringing machine learning to the daily work of health care professionals.
"The patient engagement to the system determines the success. But first you have to have success in recruiting the nurses," said CEO Ahonala. It is also crucial to determine what is the data you actually want to have in accordance to what the patients want to hear.
The Conference was organized by Science|Business, a media and communications company specialized in European research and innovation. It was part of Healthy Measures, a project that looks to make sense of patient data for improving Europe's health systems. Tekes and Aalto University worked as partners of this event, Tekes a supporter and Aalto Health Platform as a host.
See the videos
Health Transformations Seminar at Aalto University May 23, 2017
Session "Why e-health data?
- Ilkka Niemelä, Provost, Aalto University
- Corinne Le Goff, Senior Vice President, Europe, Amgen
- Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Finland
- Xavier Prats Monné, Director General, DG Health and Food Safety, European Commission
- Pekka Soini, Director General, Tekes
- Moderator: Richard L. Hudson, Editor-in-chief & Vice Chair of the Board, Science|Business
Session "Case studies in building health ecosystems"
- Tuula Palmén, Head of Project Office, Health Capital Helsinki
- Andres Metspalu, Director, The Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu
- Visa Honkanen, Director, Helsinki University Hospital
- Jani Ahonala, CEO, Noona Healthcare
- Moderator: Mirja Kaarlela, Director, Large Companies and Public Organisations, Tekes
Session "The health data challenge"
- Ian Forde, Senior Policy Analyst, OECD Health Division
- Cornelius Schmaltz, Head of Unit for Strategy, E-Health, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission
- Samuel Kaski, Director, Finnish Centre of Exellence in Computational Inference Research (COIN), Professor, Computer Science, Aalto University
- Olli Carpén, Scientific Director, Helsinki Biobank
- Moderator: Petri Lehto, Director, Policy and Communication, MSD Finland Oy
Session "The way ahead: How to make better use of data – for health and prosperity"
- Paul Lillrank, Professor, Quality and Service Management, Aalto University
- Tuomas Poskiparta, Partner, Nightingale Health
- Mikko Leino, Partner, M&M Growth Partners
- Gail Kent, Director, Resources and Support, DG Communications, Networks, Content & Tecnology, European Commission
- Arne Köhler, Principal, The Boston Consulting Group
- Moderator: Maryline Fiaschi, Managing Director, Science|Business
A Science|Business article about the Finnish health system reform: Finland's complex overhaul of healthcare promises more choice for patients
Text: Kaiku Helsinki/Leena Piirto
Photos: Kaiku Helsinki/Leena Piirto, Tekes/Pia Mörk
Videos: Aalto University