Digital Health Village offers reliable health information for all Finns – generating millions in annual savings

 |   Microsoft News Center

Tietokoneen näytöllä Terveyskylä-sivusto. Kaksi ihmistä lääkärintakeissa tutkimassa tietokonetta.

Developed in Finland and launched in 2016, the Digital Health Village is a digital service platform for healthcare and social welfare, offering digital care pathways and expert information online. Having exceeded expectations, the service is estimated to free up employees’ time for up to two new patients each day.

Aging population, increasing need for services, labor shortage, treatment queues and financing difficulties pose new challenges for healthcare systems around the world. 

In 2023, the Finnish Government spent more than EUR 20 billion on funding the country’s 21 wellbeing services counties, corresponding to approximately 25% of Finland’s EUR 80 million State budget. In the future, the financing needs of healthcare and social welfare are expected to increase further. 

In Southern Finland, for example, the healthcare and social welfare system employs approximately 60,000 professionals in total. The Joint Authority of the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS), on its part, employs 27,500 people. In 2023, HUS treated over 690,000 patients in specialist medical care and emergency departments. 

Therefore, as HUS seeks new ways to provide its services even more efficiently, the potential improvements are set to have a large-scale impact on the broader society.  

Already today, the operations of HUS are largely digital and cloud-based in many areas. In 2016, HUS began to coordinate the national Virtual Hospital 2.0 project, a joint project for all Finnish university hospital districts. The objective was to free up healthcare and social welfare professionals’ time for essential tasks, shorten treatment queues and improve treatment quality, among other things. 

“Reorganizing services and designing digital services stirred healthcare and social welfare professionals to rethink patient needs, service paths, work processes and ways of working,” CEO of HUS Matti Bergendahl describes the starting point for the project. 

As part of the project, the university hospital districts developed a health-themed online service called Digital Health Village, which revolutionizes healthcare by providing a customizable service platform that brings together the best professionals, the latest information and improved digital and local care for patients. It consists of over 30 hubs for different patient groups, containing, among others, reliable expert information on various diseases. Its My Path service channel includes digital paths that work by referral, self-care programs open to everyone, and a remote consultation function. The third section, HealthVillagePRO, includes clinical work guides and online courses for healthcare and social welfare professionals to support the building of their skills and the adoption of new approaches at work. 

The Digital Health Village was the first HUS service designed to be cloud-based from the outset. 

“Right from the beginning, making the Digital Health Village a cloud-based service proved to be an excellent decision. We created a modern, cost-efficient and secure technical foundation for the service, enabling flexible and scalable development going forward,” says Bergendahl. 

The digital service exceeded expectations – frees up to 26 minutes of working time per day

Matti Bergendahl says that as a trailblazer in digital healthcare, the Digital Health Village has convinced its users with the numerous benefits it brings.  

“The Digital Health Village has been in use already for eight years. The service has not only met but also exceeded our expectations,” he states. 

According to an impact analysis conducted by an external party, the Digital Health Village and Health Village PRO save up to 26 minutes of a healthcare professional’s time per day. Such a saving in time gives professionals time to treat one or two more patients every day. The time saving estimate is based on interviews of experts using the Digital Health Village conducted as part of the impact analysis. 

In the scope of Southern Finland, the saved time corresponds to annual savings of more than EUR 42 million for the healthcare and social welfare system. 

Considering the wider benefits of the Digital Health Village – such as improved treatment quality, immediate access to care pathways, shorter queues, time saved in patient travel, decreased loss of income and the value of health benefits – the service generates as much as EUR 689 million in annual savings for the citizens of Southern Finland. 

Of the citizens that have used the service, up to 69% estimate that the use of the Digital Health Village has improved the quality of their life. The more often an individual used the service, the bigger the benefit experienced by the user. 

Digital Health Village is built on Microsoft Azure platform. Azure’s benefit as a platform is smooth scalability for the use of a new digital path or wellbeing services county, for example. Compared to a traditional platform, developing the service is safer, more cost-efficient and more agile. 

AI allows more personal services in the future

Thanks to the modern and cloud-based technical foundation of the Digital Health Village, the further development of the service is effortless. Currently, the aim is to, for example, tailor and streamline the service with generative AI-based features.  

“The digital core of the Digital Health Village is already modern, making it easy to incorporate AI and large language models into the services. We have already utilized chatbot features that make the service more personal, but plenty of other opportunities remain open,” says Sirpa Arvonen, Digital Manager at HUS. 

Arvonen is especially interested in the translation possibilities offered by AI-based language models. 

“HUS employees use about 60 different native languages, and our patients and other customers also speak a wide range of languages. It would take no time to give the translation features access to the digital knowledge bases of the Digital Health Village. When both patients and experts can use these resources in their preferred language, the flow of information becomes significantly smoother,” Arvonen notes.

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