There’s no denying that Finland is one of the go-to areas in Europe when looking at digital health. With a vibrant startup scene and an appetite for innovation, the Finns have built an ecosystem that many look to for learning and inspiration.
The Kanta services, for instance, have grown to become one of the country’s most valued online brands, according to chief architect Dr Konstantin Hyppönen, who spoke at last year’s HIMSS & Health 2.0 European conference.
My Kanta Pages, where citizens can see their medical records and prescriptions, was used by nearly half of Finland’s population and had over 20 million logins in 2019.
For a space to “bloom with new ideas”, such an initiative is key, says Ville Mujunen, chief executive of Ninchat.
Mujunen’s company, maker of a cloud-based communication service, works with clients including Helsinki University Hospital and private healthcare service provider Terveystalo. Although it does not focus solely on this field, over 2,000 health professionals and mental health crisis workers are said to be using its service.
One of the projects in which Ninchat is used as a messaging platform is Sekasin Chat, an initiative on which the company is working with non-governmental organisation MIELI Mental Health Finland.
“Through this, you can speak to professional counsellors who are trained to chat with young people in need,” Mujunen tells MobiHealthNews.
The service had nearly 140,000 chat requests from people aged 12 to 29 years old last year. Now, MIELI, Sitra Lab, part of the Finnish innovation fund, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and public employment and business services want to take it one step further by launching a nationally-available pilot in which crisis workers will be able to identify the people using Sekasin Chat that they believe would benefit the most from an online coaching programme.
'The world is changing and we need to adapt to it'
With the success stories of companies like Rovio, maker of Angry Birds, and Supercell, it’s no surprise that the Finns are ahead. Digital services allowing people to take care of their health and wellbeing are cropping up everywhere, supported by citizens trusting that their data will be kept safe and secure, according to Mujunen.
“Finland as a country has a reputation of low corruption,” he says. “If you look at different corruption indexes, Finland is the least corrupt country in the world, so basically people do trust the system because the system actually works. Trust is key in building this type of [digital health] service.”
But there is an issue that not even the Finns seem to have cracked: cultural change.
“We see that there’s a lot of fear about cooperating with your neighbour,” Mujunen adds. “It’s not the technical change or digital change, it’s more behavioural change or attitude change. I think those are the key hurdles that we need to overcome and they are way, way more [deep-rooted] than when you can say, ‘Let’s solve this with technology’.
“That’s a hurdle, and there’s no silver bullet yet.”
And as healthcare systems around the world find themselves under increasing amounts of pressure, Finland is facing similar issues.
“We are seeing different takes on telemedicine, AI, how to try and use technology to rearrange processes and how to do crowdsourcing of resources,” Mujunen says.
“The world is changing and we need to adapt to it and look at how to provide services more efficiently, how to provide better care, preventative care by means of technology with the existing or smaller resources that we have.”
Assessing Emerging Technologies
In February, MobiHealthNews will be taking a closer look at how digital tools are validated and assessed by health systems, payers and investors.