Global collaboration will move health tech forward, says Finland's health secretary

By Leontina Postelnicu
06:59 AM
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Päivi Sillanaukee put emphasis on the need for international co-operation at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference.

Päivi Sillanaukee, permanent secretary of the ministry of social affairs and health in Finland

Responding to future healthcare challenges will depend on a “closer network of public-private partnerships and international co-operation”, Päivi Sillanaukee, permanent secretary at the ministry of social affairs and health in Finland, said today at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference in Helsinki.

“By bringing together people from different countries and sectors, the academia, businesses and government, we have a better chance of finding new solutions. By working and discussing together about the challenges and opportunities related to better health, we are moving towards new innovations,” Sillanaukee told delegates at the Nordic workshop.

Finland, she said, has one of the strongest health tech economies in the world after having invested "considerable amounts" in health-related science, innovation and research.

“We are currently implementing a health sector growth strategy. It focuses on health technology and building a coherent ecosystem for biomedical research and innovation, digital health and personalised medicine. The investments include centres of excellence on neurology, genome, cancer, biobanks, and early development of medicines," the permanent secretary added.

The Nordic country has been collecting data since the 1960s on population health, as well as socio-economic data, and is now said to have "100% digital health records", according to Sillanaukee.

"The so-called Kanta services in Finland serve as a good example. Kanta is a unique service concept. It includes electronic patient records, prescriptions, electronic social care documents and personal health and wellbeing records.

“With Kanta, healthcare professionals can access the needed data nationwide, store patient records and make prescriptions. Citizens can browse their own medical records and prescriptions and order repeat prescriptions online," she explained.

In addition, a new act on the Secondary Use of Health and Social Data came into force at the beginning of May in Finland. It is expected to "guarantee secure access" to data for authorities, institutes and companies, and allow them to use it, among others, in research, development and innovation activities.

A national authority that will grant permits to different data registers called Findata has reportedly already been established, with capabilities now being implemented and the first services expected to become available at the beginning of next year.

This week, Finnish innovation fund Sitra has also published a report - A Finnish model for the secure and effective use of dataoutlining lessons from its Isaacus project that ran from 2015 to 2018. The work is described in the report as having played an "essential role in building an innovation ecosystem and new legislation for the secondary use" of data.

“Findata opportunities could be interesting for you if you are conducting research or other development and innovation activities. We are eager to co-operate with you in order to improve easy and secure access to the health data and for the secondary use all over the Europe and also globally.

"This is not an easy task, but we believe that there is an enormous potential in using the data to develop better medicine, cure, health tech devices and apps,” Sillanaukee said at the conference.

Building good digital health services alone is "impossible", the permanent secretary added, and there is a need to create a "well-functioning ecosystem" supported by ongoing collaboration between a variety of stakeholders:

"Our healthcare system is world-class, and with [the] ecosystem approach we aim to further increase its efficiency."

Full coverage: HIMSS & Health 2.0 Europe 2019

Healthcare decision makers, patients, clinicians, nurses, life science professionals, innovators and many more are set to convene at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference 2019 in Helsinki on 11-13 June.