How Finland's making a good health care system even better

Oct 26, 2016

By Doug Peeples, Smart Cities Council

It would be an understatement to say Finland is proud of its accomplishments in health and well-being technological innovations and solutions, but it wants to do more to improve the health of its citizens and at the same time further develop and strengthen its health innovation and business ecosystem.

Finland is launching a major nationwide initiative, but local government and healthcare officials elsewhere may discover ways to integrate some aspects of what Finland is doing into their own healthcare improvement planning.

Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, and IBM, a lead partner of the Smart Cities Council, are working together to transform Finland's healthcare landscape, from how it cares for patients to how its health care system is managed and controlled.

Cognitive computing a key component

Key to the partnership is IBM's Watson cognitive computing. The company will build a Watson Health Center of Excellence in the country, the first Nordic Healthcare Competence Center and what is said to be the first National Imaging Center of Excellence outside the U.S.

Finland's healthcare system already includes full electronic health records, nationwide access to healthcare and a close working relationship between public and private sectors in health and well-being. And Tekes expects it and Finnish companies will make massive investments in artificial intelligence for well-being and healthcare over the next five years. It also expects the partnership with IBM to accelerate the development of new start-up companies and bring digitalization to all of the country's healthcare businesses.

The partnership calls for Watson Health data scientists, engineers, researchers and designers to work with Finnish doctors and researchers to create data-driven health care applications and solutions. One Finnish university wants to use health and well-being data to build applications on the Watson Health Cloud that will provide improved, personalized healthcare for its citizens. The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa will work with Watson Health to use cognitive computing to help in early identification of infections in prematurely born babies and to improve imaging for cerebral hemorrhage patients.

Why Finland?
Deborah DiSanzo, general manager for IBM Watson Health, said Finland was chosen as a destination for its Watson Health capabilities because of its intent to restructure and digitize its healthcare system, its tech-savvy citizens and a social environment attuned to health.

"The Tekes-IBM Watson Health partnership makes Finland a forerunner in health globally with Finnish citizens at the center as the ultimate beneficiaries," DiSanzo said.


Doug Peeples is an editor with the Smart Cities Council, which helps cities use technology to become more livable, workable and sustainable. The Council has announced challenge grants with the White House challenge to help five U.S. cities in that journey. Learn how to win one for your city at

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