Juha Paakkola, Director, Health Capital Helsinki
Healthcare digitalisation is certainly not a new topic and, although Finland has advanced faster than many other countries, there is still plenty to do. E-prescriptions may be yesterday’s news but many other features of the 20th century were still unchanged at the start of 2020. Patients still sat around in doctor’s waiting rooms. They stood in line with other sick people at the pharmacy. Employees wasted working time waiting for occupational health services. Then came March and covid-19.
In recent years many consumer-driven sectors like entertainment, tourism and hospitality have been digitally revolutionised. The drivers have been innovative challengers like Netflix, Airbnb and Uber, and consumer pressure has transformed the market. The disruption of healthcare, however, has been slowed down by complex systems and statutes, and the fact that we demand absolute reliability and safety where health is concerned. Healthcare providers and customers are cautious, which diminishes change, but change and development are still needed. This became painfully clear in the spring of the coronavirus. We have now seen what happens when healthcare is overburdened: how treatment and advice can be provided remotely and what can be achieved by international cooperation and determination.
Digital services were quickly adopted because of the pandemic. In Finland, we fortunately started from a fairly good level of readiness. Physical meetings had to be sharply curbed so digital services were adopted even where they might be suboptimal. In the post-pandemic world we will need a new balance among all services. Where are beneficial and efficient digital solutions applicable, and where should direct interpersonal services be developed? Healthcare and care for the elderly face different challenges.