Smart hospitals are at the heart of the future of healthcare

Future hospitals are expected to provide upgraded services to secure better patient care but what infrastructure, novel technologies and approaches towards patients are needed to redefine traditional hospitals in order to turn them into smart healthcare providers? Dutch and Finnish health professionals engaged in a discussion during the Health DigiBooster seminars arranged by OuluHealth to answer these questions and have a closer look at future health solutions.

Finland and the Netherlands are characterized by high-quality health care and high life expectancy. Both countries focus on a shift towards outpatient care and are ambitious in maximizing value of care through the development of technology. One of Finland’s most important health technology and ICT centres, Oulu is the perfect place to develop innovations that strengthen the healthcare sector in Finland and beyond. The city has highly qualified workforce and strong expertise in digital health, 5G/6G technologies, medical imaging as well as artificial intelligence. The health and life science sector in Oulu boasts about a hundred thriving businesses that develop solutions to enable hospitals to elevate their level of care. These companies belong to OuluHealth, which is one of the leading health ecosystems in the Nordic countries.

Health DigiBooster strengthened cooperation between Oulu and the Netherlands

‘Finnish and Dutch businesses can work together on solutions that can be scaled up globally. We see that, in order to be successful in global markets, we need to work together.’

The Ambassador, Desirée Kopmels

Health DigiBooster was a series of online seminars that aimed to facilitate collaboration between Finnish and Dutch partners in terms of business, research and innovation. OuluHealth arranged the first edition of Health DigiBooster in December 2020 and the second one in April 2021 in cooperation with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and our partners focused on improving future healthcare. The events gathered healthcare representatives, health technology companies and health enthusiasts from a few European countries.

The seminar held in April guided the audience into the topic of technologies and practices that make a smart hospital. It included a word of welcome from the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Desirée Kopmels followed by the presentations from Dutch health professionals representing hospitals placed by Newswek and Statista Inc. on the list of World’s Best Hospitals 2021 (; Universitair Medisch Centrum Groningen, Erasmus MC Rotterdam, RadboudUMC Nijmegen and Oulu University Hospital.

Anja van der Heide, Staff Advisor Strategy Development & External Relations at UMCG-Groningen, provided an example of a motorhome that is used to visit villages and cities in the region to offer health checks to locals related to their physical and mental health conditions. She also presented the concept of a pharmacogenetic passport, which is used to inform people about their genetic profile.

Maaike van Mourik, Programme Manager at Radboud UMC, was accompanied by a nurse Sanne van Alphen.  They shared their experiences on the digital development of the hospital and its impact on both staff and patients.

‘For any hospital in the process to digitization, keep the scope small and always put patient safety first,’ explained the next speaker, Nico Kalden, Project Manager MICIS & infusion technology. During his presentation, the audience learned about the digital pathway in Erasmus MC. According to Nico, a smart hospital should enhance the patient journey, the quality and overall efficiency of care. He also highlighted that the collection of data and the ability to explain and predict behaviour are at the core of all the processes.

Oulu University Hospital was represented by Development Manager, Pia Liljamo. She talked about a project called Health Village, which is a cloud-based public healthcare service for Finnish citizens. The platform and eHealth development program are created in collaboration with five university hospitals in Finland. Health Village offers an easy way to plan, build and introduce eHealth services.

‘The fact that people manage their own health affairs has reduced professional guidance approximately by 50%,’ said Pia.

Oulu University Hospitals is currently undergoing a total reconstruction with the goal of becoming one of the world’s smartest hospitals.

Health DigiBooster concluded in a presentation from one of the largest electronics companies in the world, Philips. Murk Westerterp, Business Marketing & Sales Leader for Connected Care, illustrated how smart processes are supported by smart solutions. He focussed on connected care processes such as healthy living, preventions, diagnosis, treatment and home care.

‘The overall goal is to improve patient care and the working experience of care personnel in order to make operations more efficient and reduce the cost of care,’ highlighted Murk.

Connected care in smart hospitals

Patients are becoming more aware of health issues and therefore, expect a different kind of services. The focus is now on self-monitoring of health conditions and health prevention rather than treatment. Body-worn sensors can help discharge patients faster and monitor their health parameters remotely. This also eases healthcare professionals’ work as they are freed from having to physically tend to patients. As a result, supported by high technology, patients may not need to be admitted to hospitals at all as many healthcare services can already be performed at home. Hospitals without walls treating patients from a distance could become an integral part of the definition of future healthcare.  The goal is to create an ideal environment for patients and build an entirely new healthcare system bearing in mind that contact with the doctor is just one of the elements of connected care.

Health innovations developed in Oulu, such as Medanets’ app enabling nurses to create digital records at patients’ bedside, Monidor’s device novel device for intravenous (IV) fluid therapy,  Code-Q’s speech recognition software, Nukute’s high-tech medical solutions for remote monitoring and diagnosing of respiratory illnesses and conditions, ProWellness Health Solutions’s web-based products improve the quality of life for patients living with chronic diseases, Screentec’s disposable medical electrodes, Nucu’s device implemented into a baby’s bedding to simulate the mother’s heartbeat or NE Device SW’s offering that includes a monitor to accurately measure a patient’s breathing remotely can contribute to implementing the new approach in future hospitals.

Digital services are part of the new generation healthcare and support an operational change in the healthcare sector. Therefore, we might be witnessing transforming traditional healthcare into a hybrid model, in which technology and remote care will be smoothly integrated into traditional medical practice. The Health DigiBooster seminars explored the opportunities delivered by smart hospitals and showed that answering the changing needs of the healthcare sector requires cross-border collaboration. Health Digi Booster made it clear that Finland and the Netherlands show high expertise and play an important role in developing personalized and preventive healthcare.

Text: Joanna Seppänen, Health & Life Science, BusinessOulu