Oamk SimLab as an innovative environment for shaping future health
The Oamk SimLab is one of the three OuluHealth innovative testbeds located in Oulu. It was established in 2010 and has expanded greatly over a few years. This test environment offers modern educational platform for students to learn and excellent testing facilities for companies to support them in developing new health solutions.
OamkSimLab is a versatile simulation and studio environment at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences. It was originally set up for students to offer them an opportunity to learn by performing in real-life situations. Simulation-based learning is valuable not only when it comes to expanding health professionals’ medical knowledge. This technique also allows students to develop their skills, and attitudes as well as train team work. All of this happens without exposing patients to unnecessary risks.
‘The idea is that some students perform tasks in a simulated situation and the rest of them are learning by observing this situation. Healthcare services are provided by teams rather than individual professionals. Future doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals train here together and learn how to operate in a team. They develop their skills in communication and leadership, as well as situational awareness,’said Tiina Tervaskanto-Mäentausta, Senior Lecturer at the Oulu University of Applied Sciences.
There are eleven degree programs to educate, for example, future social workers, different types of nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists, bioanalytics and dental hygienists. Students practice with the use of high fidelity patient simulators that have human vital functions guided with a computer. The realistic scenarios and equipment allow for more effective training and help to reduce errors that may occur in students’ future working life.
Moreover, the Oulu University of Applied Sciences is a pioneer in preparing a new type of studies for health and social care students. The program called Innocenter is a new teaching model and its novelty lies in integrating the syllabus with testing processes. Innocenter will stress the importance of learning in real-life situations as a necessary experience for future health and social care professionals.
Oamk SimLab as an aid for companies
The Oamk SimLab also serves as a test environment for product development of health technology and welfare services. It offers companies from the health sector an invaluable opportunity to test their solutions and to receive useful feedback from both students and health professionals. A good example of a successful collaboration with a company is the case of Monidor that tested in this lab their device for infusion therapy.
‘We would like to encourage companies to contact us and brainstorm together about what steps to take in order to start testing in our lab. We are also planning to organize a workshop for companies and students in autumn to enable them to talk about the future of healthcare. We hope that some new interesting ideas will appear then. I believe our students can provide a lot of useful feedback on, for example, the tools they would like to use in their professional life in the future. It will also be an excellent opportunity to present our lab and its facilities to a wider audience,’ explained Tiina Tervaskanto-Mäentausta.
First of all, excellent location is undoubtedly one of the Oamk SimLabs’ assets. Its premises lie within a walking distance from Oulu University Hospital and the medical faculty at the University of Oulu. There are also health and well-being centres located nearby. In this way expertise from health professionals is easy to reach and it’s relatively easy to recruit testers among students as well as professional teachers. What is more, testing in this environment isn’t regulated by complicated procedures, it isn’t as expensive as in other kinds of labs and it doesn’t involve any high risks as tests aren’t carried out on real patients but on computer-guided mannequins. Therefore, companies can test here products or services before they even receive proper certificates.
All the three OuluHealth testbeds operate in close collaboration so it’s possible to test a solution in more than just one environment. The representatives of OuluHealth Labs meet weekly to check the submitted applications and to decide which of the labs is the most suitable for a particular test case.
‘We want to offer students more possibilities to get to know to innovative solutions that could be applied in healthcare in the future. This is also the reason why we are looking for active collaboration with companies that develop such innovations,’ concluded Tervaskanto-Mäentausta.
The Oamk SimLab has been actively involved in numerous international projects. One of them is ProVaHealth that started last year and is scheduled to last for three years. The partners in ProVaHealth are fourteen health living labs from the Baltic Sea Region. Among them are labs from, for example, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
The project also involves forty-three companies from the health sector that are willing to test their products and services in these labs. The idea is to strengthen the collaboration between different living labs from this region and to ensure a better access to their services for small and medium health companies. The goal behind this initiative is also supporting faster development of health innovations, boosting already existing business models and creating new ones. This, in turn, will lead to improving people’s health, well-being and the overall quality of life.
This project brings promising perspectives for Finnish companies in terms of growth and internationalization as it brings opportunities to, for example, enter foreign markets after testing abroad.
The solutions that will be tested during ProVaHealth include:
- products and services for elderly and home care
- medical devices
- well-being and physiotherapy
- tools for health care professionals
- web-based products and services
Visit the Oamk SimLab’s website for more information.
University of Applied Sciences in Oulu
Text: Joanna Seppänen, OuluHealth