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The success of the healthcare sector depends on how well data is collected and utilised

How does the healthcare sector harness the opportunities provided by technology? Visa Honkanen, Director of Strategic Development at HUS tells how data could be utilised in preventive health care.

Visa Honkanen / March 25, 2020

How does the health care sector harness the opportunities provided by technology and digital solutions? Visa Honkanen, Director of Strategic Development at HUS Helsinki University Hospital, is responsible for the development of the technological applications, data administration policies and digital solutions used in the largest hospital district in Finland.



Augmenting health care with digital solutions 

According to Honkanen, digital solutions are already used in many facets of health care. 

“A good example is the digital Pregnancy Pathway service, where most of our classes are arranged online.” 

While the service still includes face-to-face sessions, embracing more digital solutions has provided HUS with clear benefits. 

“For example, it is easier for both parents to participate in pregnancy coaching when it is done online,” Honkanen notes.  

Preventing disease with data 

At HUS, data is being increasingly used in preventative measures. 

“By combining health data with other data sources, we can detect the necessary warning signs and increase the efficiency of our anticipatory preventative measures,” says Honkanen. 

Currently, a HUS research project is investigating whether an algorithm could be used to identify people who carry rare diseases. 

“With machine learning, we can monitor the behaviour of various individuals in the health care system. If the algorithm detects any warning signs, it can alert the necessary experts so that they can focus their examinations on the factors that matter the most.” 

AI is no replacement for humans 

While AI is poised to provide clear benefits, could it also include risks, such as those related to patient safety? 

“At the early stages of the process, it is vital that we allow physicians to make the final call over any automated solutions. The machine conducts its analysis first, and then the physician decides what should be done,” Honkanen explains. 

However, according to Honkanen, the work of a physician always focuses on the management of uncertainty – a physician can rarely be absolutely certain about a diagnosis. 

“That’s why it would only be a good thing if machine analysis could provide us with more information.” 

Monitoring patients with the help of technology 

Honkanen emphasises that the status of patients could be better monitored with the help of technological solutions. 

“For example, patients rarely finish their antibiotic regimens. That’s why it is important that we monitor why they were prescribed a certain medicine, whether the patient took it, and what happened afterwards.” 

While there have been discussions on the adoption of so-called smart pills, Honkanen does not wish for the health care sector to appear too overbearing in how it monitors patients. 

“The health care system should not become too invasive from the patient’s perspective.” 

Health in the cloud 

HUS possesses a huge repository of data. What kind of role does the cloud play in the processing of this data? 

“The success of the health care sector depends on how well data is collected and utilised. We would have no success in either without the help of our cloud services. Not only is the cloud the safest and fastest place to store our data, it also provides us with the most modern tools for data protection and data analysis,” explains Honkanen. 

According to Honkanen, another key factor in the success of data-oriented solutions is the quality of the data itself. 

“Even the best cloud solutions cannot save you if your data is murky at best. That’s why any larger masses of data must be cleaned up so that they can be utilised and analysed.” 

The quality of any piece of data is also influenced by the person inputting the data and whether the data is stored correctly. 

“If the person entering the data is not motivated enough, the quality of the data will suffer. That’s why we must make sure that our data depositors feel that they will benefit from using their time to enter the data.” 

The future of data-driven health care 

According to Honkanen, one key area for the future of the health care sector is to make use of existing data to improve the manner in which patients are treated. 

“The challenge for HUS is that when we provide health-related benefits to society, it does not result in any immediate changes to the Finnish economy,” he notes. 

“However, it is our ethical responsibility.” 

This article is based on our data related podcast Tietoa tulevaasta. Listen to the related episode in Finnish now!

Visa Honkanen
Director of Strategic Development at HUS Helsinki University Hospital

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Visa Honkanen

Director of Strategic Development at HUS Helsinki University Hospital

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