Medical students’ hands-on experience of digital solutions – the eHealth Seminar in Oulu
Advancing technology will have a great impact on future healthcare services making it possible to deliver better and cost-efficient care for patients, also at a distance. Therefore, an ongoing seek for innovations, such as eHealth solutions, that will ease both patients’ and healthcare professionals’ everyday routine. The eHealth Seminar in Oulu aimed to strengthen the cooperation between medical students and health companies as well as to highlight the increasing role of eHealth. The event provided future healthcare professionals with a unique opportunity for hands-on learning about digital health solutions, which is a huge leap from theory to practice.
Digitalization and data at the forefront of healthcare
The world is witnessing an explosive growth in digital services and new uses of data in the health care sector. Combining medical knowledge, clinical data and patient-produced data will be one of the greatest challenges and will change medicine as we know it. New tools will bring meaningful advancements in the way healthcare professionals use data sources from both clinical repositories and the patients’ own monitored data. This in turn will result in increased productivity and efficiency. According to Juha-Matti Ranta, CEO at Medanets, digitalization will bring enormous possibilities in terms of prevention and predictability.
‘Technological innovations provide objective data for both professionals and patients during the treatment and rehabilitation processes. Based on the data, it is possible to identify already minor changes in patients’ health condition. This is crucial in preventive healthcare, as the quality of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation rises,’ added Eero Kaikkonen, CEO at MoveSole.
Contrary to what many fear, high technology will aid healthcare professionals and benefit the patient. It will expand, not replace, the traditional role of doctors and nurses. Digital applications will ultimately help them to save time and better manage patient information, allowing them to spend more time with their patients. Longer visits will likely to enhance communication and build trust, which in turn will influence the whole recovery process. Meanwhile, patients will be empowered to take more responsibility over their own health conditions.
However, eHealth solutions will not bring meaningful results unless there is a proper understanding of how they work and what opportunities they bring. To achieve that, we need everyone on board: medical students, healthcare professionals and health companies.
A new hands-on approach for teaching about eHealth technology
The University of Oulu started medical students´ education on e-health and m-health together with health companies in 2016. This model is now being replicated by other universities in Finland.
‘We first thought of bringing together medical students and digital health innovators when we started the process of renewing our medical curriculum and we noticed that it lacked the digital health technology content. That is where the idea of the eHealth Seminar came from,’ explained Jarmo Reponen, Professor of Healthcare Information Systems Research at the University of Oulu and one of the event initiators.
Medical students were already well connected to the pharma industry, but the connection to the ICT sector is brand new. This year, the Faculty of Medicine and the Centre for Health and Technology at the University of Oulu have organized the eHealth Seminar already for the fourth time.
‘The main idea behind this initiative is to introduce final-year medical students to the environment of digital health and inspire them to think about the changing role of a doctor. They are soon to be healthcare professionals who will start working with patients this summer, so this is a good moment to show them examples of innovations, which can make their work easier and more effective. I think that this may also give a promising start to future cooperation and co-creation of new health solutions,’ added Professor Reponen.
The seminar took place in the OYS TestLab and on the premises of the Faculty of Medicine on 28 March 2019. Why is eHealth education important? How is the role of a doctor changing? How will artificial intelligence shape the future of healthcare, and what improvements will it bring?
According to Ilkka Kunnamo, Adjunct Professor of General Practice at the University of Helsinki, the role of a healthcare professional is already undergoing changes. To some extent, future service providers may replace people with artificial intelligence. This means that in some cases patients will be in contact with machines, which will bring a very different communication model.
‘The eHealth seminar in Oulu is unique as there is no event like this in Finland. I think that students are very engaged and eager to learn more about eHealth innovations. I have visited a few stands today and heard so many good questions. The lectures and digital health companies make a very good mix together,’ highlighted Kunnamo.
The speakers at the eHealth Seminar answered many questions related to challenges the healthcare sector faces, but the main aim of the event was to bring together health innovators and future doctors and nurses to discuss digital health solutions.
Making the most of cooperation between medical students and health companies
Oulu has done systematic work to make the city a great place for scientists, researchers, students and companies from the healthcare sector. Here, innovative solutions are born from cooperation that has been ongoing on many levels and for many years.
This year, the eHealth Seminar gathered about 300 students and 30 digital health companies for a day full of discussions, networking and practical testing of innovations that can improve future healthcare services. Some companies have taken part in all editions of the seminar.
‘Mutual learning through networking and discussions on many levels is needed to be successful in delivering user-friendly and high – quality solutions. I think that medical students are genuine digi-natives. It is extremely interesting to see what kind of an influence, if any, this fact has on the acceptance of technological solutions among healthcare professionals. So far, implementing digital health innovations has been quite a challenging process for eHealth companies,’ commented Kaikkonen.
Hands-on sessions in small groups provided students with an opportunity to get to know the innovations presented by health companies and to find out how they could use them in their own work with patients.
‘We see value in presenting our expertise to the future healthcare professionals. It’s also interesting to hear the younger generation’s point of views, first impressions and development ideas for our solutions,’ concluded Ranta.
During the morning session, students from the Oulu University of Applied Sciences visited the stands to talk to companies and learn about their offerings. The afternoon session focused on medical students, who took turns getting a closer look at the digital health solutions at the stands and finding out how they can make use of them to make their work easier, save time and treat their patients more effectively.
‘I think organizing events like this is a very good idea. It feels completely different to read about an innovation and to be able to test it by yourself. Lots of interesting new solutions are here today so it is a very positive experience,’ said Matti Muittari, one of the medical students present at the eHealth seminar.
Medical students are aware of both the challenges in the healthcare sector and patients’ needs, so companies see them as a reliable source of feedback on product or service usability. Undoubtedly, new technology is redefining the doctor-patient relationship, and events like the eHealth Seminar can provide a good platform for building a better understanding of the digital health revolution.
Professor of Health information systems, University of Oulu (seminar day)
Project coordinator, Centre of Health and Technology, University of Oulu (cooperation with companies)
Text: Joanna Seppänen, Health & Life Science, BusinessOulu