The HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference exhibition floor at Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre. (Photo: Ilkka Ranta-aho)

Helsinki highlighted the region’s strengths in health at HIMSS & Health 2.0 conference

For three days, 11–13 June 2019, the attention of the world’s digital health experts was focused on Helsinki, as the city hosted Europe’s leading event in digital health, HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference. The selection of Helsinki – for the first time ever – for this international gathering of specialists and visionaries in the future of health is in itself proof of Helsinki’s strengths in health innovations. Those strengths form key elements of the future of healthcare.

The Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre hosted close to 3,000 experts discussing the latest advances in healthcare – representatives of enterprises, startups, research institutions and healthcare organizations, as well as decision-makers and thought leaders. The Finland Pavilion, the largest country section, presented 80 Finnish enterprises and organizations that together provided a comprehensive cross-section of top Finnish health expertise.

Photo: Ilkka ranta-aho

The Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre in Helsinki hosted close to 3,000 health experts

The presentation of the Finland Pavilion both showcased the main themes of the conference and underscored the key roles that Finland plays in those themes: integration of social services and healthcare, community-based care (or home care), secure and ethical flow of data, artificial intelligence and open innovation.

Photo: Ilkka Ranta-aho

The Finland Pavilion, the largest country section, presented 80 Finnish enterprises and organizations

“Finland is well positioned to be a key player in the future of health,” comments one of the conference’s international guests, Patrick Loerch, Ph.D., of World Without Disease Accelerator of Janssen. Janssen is a pharmaceutical company of the American multinational Johnson & Johnson corporation.

Patrick Loerch, Ph.D, VP, Global Head Data Sciences & Prevention Biomarkers, World Without Disease Accelerator, Janssen

Patrick Loerch, Ph.D, VP, Global Head Data Sciences & Prevention Biomarkers, World Without Disease Accelerator, Janssen

What is the future of health?

Loerch, titled Vice President and Global Head Data Sciences & Prevention Biomarkers, describes his organization’s view of the future of health as follows:

“Healthcare will continue to evolve rapidly, spurred by deeper understanding of diseases and through the application and integration of data science and new technologies. Our focus at Janssen’s World Without Disease Accelerator is to move from today’s disease care to a future health care paradigm, where solutions maintain health.

“We see that the priorities are, first, collaboration among the life science ecosystem – that is, patients, physicians, industry, academia, tech, health authorities and payers – and, second, a commitment to accelerate and to deliver transformational innovations that prevent, intercept and cure diseases.

“We see that the application of AI is a foundational part in this commitment. AI holds great promise and represents an important pillar in our efforts at Janssen.”

Helsinki’s standing in health and wellbeing solidified

The City of Helsinki and its partners the University of Helsinki and HUS Helsinki University Hospital under the umbrella of Health Capital Helsinki are key collaborators in the HIMSS and Health 2.0 European Conference. They also had an active presence in the 2019 programme and on the exhibition floor.

Marja-Leena Rinkineva, Director of Economic Development, explains, “Health is a growing economic sector internationally, and health tech is Finland’s fastest-growing export business. Health and wellbeing are also a growing industry in Helsinki. We see HIMSS as a good way to support that growth.”

Marja-Leena Rinkineva, Director of Economic Development, and Juha Paakkola, Director of Health Capital Helsinki

Marja-Leena Rinkineva, Director of Economic Development, and Juha Paakkola, Director of Health Capital Helsinki

Helsinki will continue to host the conference for another two years – both in 2020 and 2021.

“HIMSS strengthens Helsinki’s brand in health and wellbeing in more ways than one,” Rinkineva continues.

“The fact that we can pull together such a large event as this strengthens our image as a significant player in health, and it proves that Helsinki is developing into a notable health tech hub – a true Health Capital.

“Furthermore, HIMSS allows us to showcase many of our strengths, including a successful integration of social services and healthcare, and our combination of topnotch medical research and technology.

“I was happy to see the conference’s large attendance, which exceeded our expectations. The overall atmosphere was good. Helsinki will benefit from concrete new international business and partnerships produced as a result of HIMSS.”

“The future of health is made in Helsinki”

Helsinki Business Hub, an international trade and investment development agency for the Helsinki metropolitan area, focused at the conference on expounding the area’s strengths in health.

“We see HIMSS as a way to create value and as a mechanism to develop investments,” says Helsinki Business Hub CEO Marja-Liisa Niinikoski.

“Our main message is that the future of health can be found and is created in Helsinki. We base this claim on solid arguments,” Niinikoski asserts.

“First, data is the new gold, and its importance will be growing further. Finland is a technology-driven country that has built solid IT expertise over decades. Now data analytics and artificial intelligence competencies combine with top medical research and clinical expertise in Finland, to produce world-leading capabilities in digital health. Digital health solutions enable proactive, preventive and personalized care, which are the future of health.”

Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO, Helsinki Business Hub (HBH) at the HBH lounge

Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO, Helsinki Business Hub (HBH) at the HBH lounge

Finland possesses particular strengths in the integration of digital health data with genome information. A prime example cited by Niinikoski is FinnGen, a major public-private collaboration based at the University of Helsinki.

Another prime example of Finland’s strengths in digital health cited by Niinikoski is iCAN, also based at the University of Helsinki. iCAN combines precision cancer medicine and digital health.

Niinikoski underscored her declaration that the future of health is made in Helsinki with a panel discussion on the digital twin concept in healthcare, held on the Stage of the conference exhibition floor. Five panelists envisioned uses of this concept, new in health, from the patient point of view. “If we can produce a digital twin of a human being, we can make major advances in preventive healthcare,” Niinikoski commented.

Photo: Ilkka Ranta-aho

A panel on the use of the digital twin concept in healthcare, moderated by Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO, Helsinki Business Hub. Panelists from left: Markus Leskinen, MD, Ph.D. Neonatalogist at HUS; Juho Paaso, VP of Engineering, BC Platforms; Timo Miettinen, Information Systems Manager at the Institute for Molecular Medicine, Finland (FIMM); Patrick Loerch, Ph.D, VP, Global Head Data Sciences & Prevention Biomarkers, World Without Disease Accelerator, Janssen; and Jukka Lähesmaa, Senior Specialist, Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health

“Tools, rules and schools” – three essentials that underlie Finnish leadership in digital health

After an intense tour of the HIMSS exhibition floor on Day One of the exhibition, Visa Honkanen, Chief Digital Officer of HUS Helsinki University Hospital, commented that he felt like having been on a campaign trail. “But we’re all marketers. We should take our expertise further in order to help others in Finland to move on. The HUS competencies should benefit all of Finland.” HUS, the biggest healthcare provider in Finland, is part of the Health Capital Helsinki alliance.

Visa Honkanen, Chief Digital Officer of HUS Helsinki University Hospital (Photo: Ilkka Ranta-aho)

Visa Honkanen, Chief Digital Officer of HUS Helsinki University Hospital

Honkanen had begun his tour in the morning by accepting a HIMSS award, HIMSS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Award for Outstanding ICT Achievement, conferred to the Health Village virtual hospital, a national Finnish project that was initiated by HUS but today includes all Finnish university hospitals.

“The 16,500 monthly visitors to Health Village exemplify why Finland, according to an EU estimate, is Europe’s Number One country in digitalization,” Honkanen says.

HUS conducts pioneering work to digitalize healthcare with digital care pathways. Elaborating on leadership in digital health, Honkanen points out, however, that it would require a thorough cultural change to make digital care pathways the primary pathways.

“Digitalization is a good thing, but it should always be complemented by personal encounters; the combination of digital care and personal encounters is key to super-efficient healthcare. That’s the grand idea behind digital health.

“When we develop AI-based solutions in healthcare, it’s not enough to have the best data scientist and the best clinician; they have to be integrated to create added value. That’s where Finland excels: the creation of this added value, coupled with vast amounts of data and, importantly, trust.

“Finnish society is based on trust, and Finnish customers are confident that their data is treated with respect. The trust comes from the high achievements of the Finnish education system, which produces sophisticated customers. Digitalization is the faster and the more successful the more trust there is in society.

“To sum up, Finland excels in health because we have the three essentials in place: tools, rules and schools – the technology to analyze data, the rules that govern the use of data, and a high-achieving education system.”

Digital advances in City healthcare

Timo Lukkarinen, City of Helsinki Medical Director, took the Stage to complete Day One on the exhibition floor. He highlighted how Helsinki public healthcare points to the future of health.

Timo Lukkarinen, Medical Director, City of Helsinki

Timo Lukkarinen, Medical Director, City of Helsinki

Lukkarinen presented a system of health benefit analysis applied by Helsinki using a special tool developed in Finland to analyze the care history of patients. The tool uses all indicators and data recorded on patients over their entire history of public healthcare, such as smoking habits. The data analysis can be used to produce preventive and personalized care solutions. The tool can pick out subgroups of patients at risk and allow targeted care to be directed at those groups.

The tool shows the power of data analytics in public healthcare. “It has the power to revolutionize public health,” Lukkarinen envisions.

Panel discussion tackled future dilemmas in healthcare

Helsinki Business Hub continued its exploration of the future of health with a panel discussion on the morning of Thursday, 13 June, focusing on shared decision-making by using AI.

The discussion was inspired by an AI-powered tool developed by Solita, a company that specializes in digital transformation, and the Coxa Hospital for Joint Replacement. The new tool can revolutionize the work of surgeons. It supports doctors in making decisions and helps them to evaluate treatment methods and risks related to surgery. But questions arise when medical decision-making is transferred to a machine.

Solita’s Director of Health and Wellbeing Division, Risto Kaikkonen, comments, “Such systems represent dramatic transformation in healthcare. AI makes healthcare more efficient, but AI-based systems introduce new aspects to healthcare to consider, ranging from legal aspects to ethics to consumer markets.”

Risto Kaikkonen, Solita’s Director of Health and Wellbeing Division

Risto Kaikkonen, Solita’s Director of Health and Wellbeing Division

The Helsinki Business Hub–moderated panel tackled those aspects, continuing to make the future of health in Helsinki.

More information

HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference
HIMSS – Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
Helsinki Business Hub – Health
Health Capital Helsinki


Text: Johanna Lemola
Photos: Ilkka Ranta-aho


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