Good Life for Finland – Time to launch a health data & AI ecosystem in Finland

Health data

An American serial entrepreneur and investor Bill Gross gave a popular TED Talk in 2015, in which he stated that timing is the single most important reason for startups to prosper. Perfect timing was the main reason in the successes of Uber, AirBnB, YouTube, and LinkedIn. As examples of failures Gross mentioned e.g. the food delivery service Webvan and the social media pioneer Friendster, both of which entered the market a bit too early. Launching too late doesn’t work either, since the market has already been conquered by others.

Nailing the perfect timing concerns businesses beyond startups. It is also very vital in research and the commercialization of research results. Research groups should have their eyes and ears open for trends in consumer behavior, legislation reforms, and technological innovations.

Finnish health data into use

We are now in the verge of such pivotal moment in the area of health data. From spring 2018 onwards, a new EU GDPR legislation is going to be in effect. GDPR is going to enable a secondary usage of health data. By virtue of this new legislation health data can be utilized in research a lot better than earlier. At the same time, The National Institute of Health and Welfare is going to become a governmental body granting permissions for data usage (link in Finnish).

Why should this be of interest to Finland and the Finnish research and business scene? First of all, Finland already has top quality research in and around the health sector. Furthermore, Finland has excellent ICT know-how and applying artificial intelligence (AI) is supported by the government (link in Finnish).

An even more significant reason, however, is the fact that Finland has a unique health and genomic data population. Health registries have been in use for long and one can get into hospitals with the same credentials across Finland. In this sense Finland is one of a kind.

Added value for health care

The government stated in their midterm resolutions, that the ecosystem model is the way to go in order to speed up digitalization (link in Finnish). Clearly one of the most important ecosystems is in the area of health data and ICT: “Good Life for Finland”. Last spring a strategic research agenda (SRA) in this area was prepared by VTT together with companies and research institutes. The SRA lays out the most significant priorities of the area.

As a unique health data possessor Finland has the opportunity of attracting also international stakeholders to this new ecosystem. We can provide a testbed for validation of research results and trying out new innovations before global launches. In other words, the ecosystem model of operating benefits both research and business, domestic and international alike.

And what’s most important, all these findings and innovations will in the end result in decrease in diseases, increase in life expectancy, less costs in healthcare, as well as overall growth in wellbeing.

All the puzzle pieces are at hand for completing the ecosystem. VTT is already starting operations for reaching the SRA goals. Now is the time to act for making the most of what health data can offer us!

Tua Huomo VTT

Tua Huomo
Vice President, Data-driven solutions
Twitter: @tuajh

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