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Data creates advantage for healthcare and elite sports

24 August 2021

Research data plays an increasingly important role in many sectors. Data is the new oil that is revolutionising many industries, such as manufacturing and retail. What opportunities does data offer to the public sector including healthcare or elite sports? In partnership with the Finnish Olympic Committee, TietoEVRY is seeking answers to this question.

Simo Ihalainen, who has a PhD in biomechanics, is continuing his studies at the Faculty of Information Technology at the University of Jyväskylä. His interest in machine learning led him to an internship at TietoEVRY. During his internship, he attempts to find out how healthcare utilises machine learning models in data collection and analysis.

Data collection is a laborious and time-consuming step in many types of research. Simo Ihalainen has noticed this not only in his work in the Research Institute for Olympic Sports but also during his internship at TietoEVRY.

“In elite sports, the work of a biomechanist starts with measurements of performance during competitions and training. In cross-country skiing, for example, the tracks for upcoming competitions are measured in advance to create treadmill simulators based on the measurements and images. The measurements and imaging take a lot of time and require the presence of a biomechanist,” says Ihalainen.

“In an ideal situation, the athlete and coach could collect this information themselves. And indeed, the target of elite sports research is to move towards more automated information collection and a larger amount of data. Intuitive tools are also needed for data input. On the other hand, in certain sports there are no technical applications for collecting the relevant data , so reaching the target still requires a lot of work,” says Ihalainen.

Data to create a prediction model for healthcare

The situation in healthcare is in many ways the opposite to sports: huge amounts of various kinds of health data are collected continuously. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) produces hundreds of statistics annually for both public and licensed research use. THL also maintains a material catalogue, combining research data produced by various parties.

The Act on Secondary Use of Health and Social Data entered into force in 2019. The act enables data collected by social welfare and healthcare services to be combined securely with personal data obtained from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, Statistics Finland, and the Finnish Centre for Pensions and to be applied for the purposes of knowledge management or development and innovation, for example.

The Social and Health Data Permit Authority (Findata) grants permits for such secondary use of data, collects the data securely and enables more efficient use of data.

Ihalainen’s job at TietoEVRY is to study metadata used in healthcare information systems and its conversion into a format that can be used in a material catalogue.

Ihalainen is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to study machine learning with experienced data professionals.

“This is an excellent opportunity for me to improve my technical skills. The internship also offers interesting insights for the academic study. One such angle could be the use of data to create prediction models for the treatment of an illness.”

Health data in elite sports

“Health data is important also in the research and development of elite sports. Data is collected from athletes bysensors measuring factors such as fitness level, recovery and sleep. Yet such data must be used the right way, and the athlete must not be led into a jungle of data. Metrics are useful in detecting change, but they do not replace the athletes’ own experiences. Athletes must learn to recognise their bodies’ signals.

“In terms of coaching, the question is when the boundaries are pushed sufficiently and when you might overdo things, even resulting in a higher risk of injury. This is a difficult area where data could be useful. It could be used to develop prediction models for the prevention of sports injuries, for example. Athletes cannot improve their performance unless they can train as healthy as possible,” Ihalainen says.

For more information, please contact: 

Finnish Olympic Committee: Ville Köngäs, Executive Manager of Marketing and Partnerships, tel. +358 40 962 5463

Niina Siipola, Intelligent Wellbeing Area Product Owner, TietoEVRY, niina.siipola@tietoevry.com, puh. +358 40 5431987

The Finnish Olympic Committee represents all sport and physical activity from grassroots to elite sport in Finland. We have two strategic goals: Increase participation in sports and physical activity for all and enable international success in elite sports. Together with our member organizations we want to energize Finland through physical activity and sport.

TietoEVRY creates digital advantage for businesses and society. We are a leading digital services and software company with local presence and global capabilities. Our Nordic values and heritage steer our success.

Headquartered in Finland, TietoEVRY employs around 24 000 experts globally. The company serves thousands of enterprise and public sector customers in more than 90 countries. TietoEVRY’s annual turnover is approximately EUR 3 billion and its shares are listed on the NASDAQ in Helsinki and Stockholm as well as on the Oslo Børs. www.tietoevry.com

For more information, please contact

Niina Siipola

Intelligent Wellbeing Area Product Owner

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