Finnish delegation trip to landmark German hospital reveals stark differences, similarities between healthcare systems

A Finnish site visit to Berlin’s Charité hospital, which formed part of the recent HEALTH Conference in Berlin, kicked off some interesting discussions when comparing the two healthcare systems.
03:59 AM

When 12 Finnish health IT directors and experts visited the state-of-the-art Charité University Hospital in November 2019, as part of the HEALTH Conference in Berlin, they didn’t expect to find so many similarities – and differences – with the way they did things back home.

The visit was set up to showcase the digitisation of the hospital and its new speech recognition infrastructure and included presentations and discussions with representatives of Charité’s IT department. It was organised by the AKUSTI Forum, a co-operation network for the Finnish health and human services ICT, which supports activities to build, integrate and deploy the future health IT services for the social and healthcare sectors in Finland and which is coordinated by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

What are the similarities and differences?

“What struck me about the visit was how similar the famous Charité hospital is to the hospital I work at now,” said Leena Setala, MD, PhD, and chief strategy officer (CSO) at the Hospital District of Southwest Finland, who was part of the Finnish delegation (Charité has been ranked by Focus magazine as the best of over a thousand hospitals in Germany every year from 2012 to 2019). “Turku is also a long-established university hospital, but we have about 8,000 employees and are about half the size of Charité.

“The way we work, however, is very different. I think it is easier to operate within the Finnish healthcare system, as it is more coherent than and not as complicated as Germany’s healthcare system.

“The German people also see more risks in sharing their data than we do. We have a structure that makes it easy for us to see complete health data for a single person and we now also have legislation in place around the secondary use of healthcare data, which is expected to make things even easier.”

“Topics like usability of data, modular or monolith IT solutions, preventive health care supported with data were among the topics in which we found similarities and similar agendas,” said Kalevi Virta, HIMSS Europe Nordic Community member, director eWELL Oy and also part of the Finnish delegation. “The basic need to build up effective and more productive digital services for the needs of citizens, patients and professionals form the same baseline, although the organisational differences in the operational environment may lead to different solutions.”  

“Hosting this kind of event is always challenging, but at the same time very rewarding,” said Hanna Menna, senior adviser, Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities and coordinator for the AKUSTI Forum. “We got to speak about the issues which are on the table right now in Finland - for example the costs of healthcare ICT and the rapidly ageing population - with our counterparts in Berlin. The next steps will be to continue dialogue with our international counterparts and most likely we will soon start organising the next similar such event.”

Hugely inspired by the use of speech recognition

Charité hospital, which has nearly 100 clinics and institutes across four campuses and more than 3,000 beds, has implemented and been using speech recognition for the past year and a half at all its Berlin sites. There are now more than 1,200 users using the Dragon Medical system from Nuance.

The hospital’s next focus will be on mobility: speech-based data collection on tablets (the hospital currently uses 1,100 iPads).

Though not a user of speech recognition herself, Leena Setala said she was hugely inspired by the use of speech recognition at Charité. “At present radiology is the biggest user of speech recognition in our hospital, but we’d like to introduce it to other medical specialities.

“During this visit we learned that more powerful algorithms and wider vocabulary are being developed for speech recognition and so I hope that this will improve the usability for speech recognition for our small country and this rather special language of ours!”

The HEALTH Conference returns to Berlin this year (November 12-13, 2020). You can find out more here.

The HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference 2020 will be returning to Helsinki, Finland on 26-28 May 2020 for three days of the latest innovation, learning and networking opportunities. Find out more here.