Oulu’s path to healthcare powered by 5G presented at the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference

Where the champions of healthcare unite

The most anticipated digital health event of the year, the HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference attracted about 2600 delegates from 64 countries to Helsinki on 12 – 13 June 2019. The two-day conference was an excellent opportunity to let the world know about Finland’s exceptional expertise in health technology. Oulu, a strong centre for ICT and health, and the OuluHealth ecosystem were very well represented during the event. The OuluHealth stand in the Finland Pavilion was buzzing with attractions, such as a 5G demo and rated as Finland’s best patient information system, Esko which is utilized in Oulu University Hospital.

The HIMSS & Health 2.0 European Conference provided a useful platform for establishing new contacts and strengthening the existing ones. It was a perfect place to meet the best health innovators and connect with investors. The conference’s agenda featured a number of workshops and inspiring keynote speakers also from Oulu, Olli Liinamaa from the University of Oulu, Juha-Matti Ranta, CEO at Medanets, Timo Alalääkkölä representing the OYSTestLab and Joonas Pöllä, CFO at Peili Vision.

Prior to the conference, OuluHealth hosted a side event in Oulu on 9-10 June to show what advancements 5G technology will bring to future healthcare.

Making the digital leap

Oulu is already widely recognised as an innovative leader in both health and 5G technology.  Many digital health innovations, which are widely used in Finland and beyond, have been developed in Oulu. Therefore, the side event was a perfect opportunity to spread the word about them.

The 5G revolution is taking the world by storm but what will it offer to the social and health care sector? The morning session started with keynote presentations delivered by both local and international speakers, such as Olli Liinamaa from the University of Oulu, Eila Erkkilä, Deputy Chief Physician at the City of Oulu, Donna Henderson from NHS Scotland, Alexander Dozet from Nordic Reference Site Network,  Per-Olof Egnell from LTU Sweden and Myriam Martin representing Spanish TIC Biomed-inDemand.

Olli Liinamaa provided a variety of insights into the opportunities that will emerge when healthcare and high technology meet. About 100 guests, including delegations from the Nordic countries, Germany and the UK, could see how wireless-connected cameras and biosensors offer new digital tools to teach healthcare operations to students remotely and allow remote consultancy.

According to Liinamaa, 5G has the potential of changing the world of communication radically.  It will not only connect humans but also things around us. This, in turn, will open up a range of services developed also for the healthcare sector. 5G technology will introduce not only more capacity for data, but also increased reliability, minimised network delay and optimized architecture for connecting machines.

‘With a high-performing network, healthcare personnel could have access to relevant data anywhere at any screen anywhere at a hospital campus. New types of end-user devices, such as augmented reality glasses, allow delivering relevant data to be viewed in real-time.   Indoor positioning could be a basis for tracking devices and creating navigation services for patients and visitors.  Sensors and cameras also ensure good medical care remotely and allow patients to stay at home instead of spending extra days at hospital,’ said Liinamaa.  

Eila Erkkilä, Deputy Chief Physician in the city of Oulu, gave a very interesting presentation on Oulu Selfcare and virtual healthcare centre, which is a digitally enabled self-management hub that has proved to bring annual savings worth millions of euros. Her speech was followed by a panel discussion. Timo Alalääkkölä, Manager of Testing and Innovations in Oulu University Hospital, Maritta Perälä-Heape, Professor of Practice at the University of Oulu and Minna Komu, Network Director at OuluHealth discussed the role and offering of the OuluHealth ecosystem, emerging business opportunities, and the need for close cooperation in the social and health care sector.

‘In Oulu we are keen on moving from the cookbook phase to the handbook phase in digital health, from challenges straight to solutions,’ highlighted Maritta Perälä-Heape.

The event participants could also choose from two workshops: 5G in Future Hospital or DigiHealth Hub, enhancing digital health capabilities and collaboration.

The latter consisted of a keynote speech by Tuija Ikonen, Senior Ministerial Advisor, Wellbeing and Services, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, and two panel discussions with local and international partners.  The workshop shed light on the possibilities created by recent legislation on the secondary use of health data, and emphasized the benefits and practices of international collaboration. In addition, a real-world databased solution for assessing the risks of joint replacement surgeries, Oravizio, was presented by Sanna Virkkunen from Solita.

The day ended with a site visit to a simulation environment, Enabling Home, at Oulu University of Applied Sciences.

Oulu, the city that knows how to collaborate to innovate

The guests were particularly pleased to hear about the collaboration model established by OuluHealth. The ecosystem has made successful efforts to bring together experts from health and social care, the natural sciences, information technology, academia and business to stimulate the economic growth, spur health innovations as well as provide a supportive test and development environment, OuluHealth Labs, for health-tech businesses.

‘I have heard a lot about OuluHealth, your initiatives and your visions. I think you have established something outstanding. I enjoyed the Finnish spirit, seeing the collaboration efforts and the amazing results. You seem to me a pioneer living and breathing co-creation and co-development. I also liked the personal and very authentic atmosphere of this event, said Elisa Frenz, Ecosystem Development Manager at European Connected Health Alliance in Berlin.

‘I know several great stories of success from Oulu. I was also a part of a few research applications together with the partners from Oulu. An invitation to this event was a perfect opportunity to familiarize myself with some of your activities, research facilities and groups. I hope this visit will contribute to developing collaboration between research institutions in Norway and Finland. I think the connections between research and industry here are outstanding. Also the focus on commercialisation and taking research results into practice is truly inspiring,’ added Andrius Budrionis, Senior Researcher in the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research.

The 5G race has already begun so it is time to cut the cables with the use of capacity, latency and reliability. Oulu is definitely on the right track to prove how it can be achieved in practice.

Text and image: Joanna Seppänen, Marketing & Communications, Health & Life Science, BusinessOulu