Digital Finland: Towards an ecosystem of health and wellbeing apps

Healthcare digitisation is a niche topic? No way. For four years in a row now, the Finnish digital health services have ranked among the top three of the most valued internet brands in Finland.
By Philipp Grätzel von Grätz
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Finland was among the first countries in Europe to systematically introduce electronic prescriptions in 2010. “By now, all prescriptions in Finland are electronic by law. Paper is only allowed in extraordinary situations like for example a blackout,” according to Dr Konstantin Hyppönen, Chief Architect of the Finnish Kanta Services.

Most recent figures show that around 30 million digital prescriptions are issued by Finnish doctors annually, and almost 65 million dispensations were made on digital prescriptions in 2018, up from 22 million five years earlier.

By 2022, the digital prescriptions will be supplemented by a national medication list that will be open to use by any patient and that will summarise the medication that a patient currently takes.

But the Finnish digital health services, usually referred to as Kanta Services, go way beyond medication. The national Patient Data Repository went live in 2013. It collects medical documents from hospitals and ambulatory doctors and makes them accessible to both healthcare professionals and patients.

Last year, the Patient Data Repository was supplemented by a twin data repository for social services. Among the new services that have been recently added to the Kanta portfolio is a connection to the national Finnish data exchange layer, based on the X-road infrastructure, that allows citizens to transmit medical statements required to get a driver’s licence.

Another new service that utilises the Patient Data Repository is an imaging infrastructure that is starting to go live in the first regions now. Furthermore, new types of documents and data are added constantly, for example optometric data, and documents relating to dental care.

Patient access to the individual digital data is implemented via the My Kanta portal which has become hugely popular in Finland. According to Hyppönen, the Kanta Services have in fact been among the top three internet brands that Finns value most for four years in a row now.

Only the national broadcaster Yle and the web services of the Finnish Meteorological Institute with its weather forecasts were more popular in 2018. Around 50% of all citizens between 18 and 65 years have accessed personal medical data on the portal. And even in the elderly, 37% have already checked their medical data online. These figures, again, are higher than in other European countries.

The most recent addition to the Kanta Services was the Personal Health Record (PHR) that was made available to all citizens in 2018. Unlike the Patient Data Repository, the PHR allows citizens to store their own data and make it accessible. This can be done with the help of different types of apps that add to the existing, medico-social data set.

“We expect that the system evolves towards an ecosystem of health and wellbeing apps within the years to come. These apps will also be able to access data produced by health and social services”, said Hyppönen at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference in Helsinki last week.