Finland urgently needs more IT support in health care

Meeting the needs of a rapidly ageing population requires IT solutions for increasing light care and remote monitoring from home.

Finland requires more information technology solutions to deal with the challenges faced by its health care system due to the country’s rapidly ageing population, according to Professor Kaija Saranto from the University of Eastern Finland. Interviewed recently in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Saranto said that by the year 2030 the number of hospital beds and staff in Finland will not be anywhere enough to cope with the increasing number of people requiring care.

In Finland the financial burden falling on the working population to finance the health care of the whole population is increasing annually. The current ratio shows that every 100 working people are supporting about 50 other citizens, mainly elderly people and children. However, by the year 2030 every 100 people in employment will already be supporting 70 others, mainly elderly people.

IT solutions for light care and monitoring

Saranto believes that the situation requires the introduction of more IT solutions that make it possible to provide light care and remote monitoring at the patients’ homes rather than having patients coming to the health centres each time to see a doctor. This would enable care staff to deal with many more patients daily.

According to Saranto, there are already many kinds of equipment and instruments available in the shops for patients to take measurements at home, but the problem lies in the patient data systems of the health centres and hospitals that are not able to receive the information. She is also calling for a less paternalistic attitude towards patients in the Finnish health care system and believes that many elderly patients and their relatives can cope with the new technology.

Telemedicine and eHealth

In 2010 Finland had over 50 different projects for developing remote care methods such as patients taking measurements at home and using the internet to deliver them to the doctor. According to Jarmo Reponen, chairman of the Finnish Society of Telemedicine and eHealth, the trials using IT have been successful on the whole, especially where specialist doctors have been harnessed with image transfer or video link technology for the benefit of a wider patient group.

A national conference on Telemedicine and eHealth will be held in Seinäjoki, Finland, on 18-19 April. The theme of the conference is “Technology Cooperation Improving Health”.

Sources: Helsingin Sanomat, Finnish Society of Telemedicine and eHealth