Results of the work
Estimated reading time 10 min

Sitra boosts health sector development in Europe – harnessing data for quality healthcare

Long-term work on health and data has resulted in Sitra continuing to lead a new EU project to streamline the secure use of health data across national borders. Recommendations to strengthen the sector in Finland have been included in the Finnish government programme, and the digital apps tested in the pilots are serving as prototypes in the reform of health and social services. These are the results and lessons learned from the three-year project.


Kirsi Suomalainen

Specialist, Communications and Public Affairs


What was it about?

Solving the complex problems of a rapidly changing world requires more diverse collaboration and data sharing. Trust in the appropriate use of health data requires transparency, common approaches and regulation.

The European Health Data Space (EHDS) being prepared by the EU will benefit the future development of healthcare and service availability, efficiency and sustainability. Research and innovation will also benefit from better access to data.

The cross-border use of health data requires common rules, policies and solutions that respect people’s right to privacy. In the Health Data 2030 project, we developed solutions, fair rules and a bridge for the cross-border use of health data in Europe and supported the development of the competitiveness of the Finnish health sector.

How did the work progress?

A significant part of the project was focused on managing and communicating the EU joint action paving the way for a European Health Data Space. We contributed robust Finnish expertise and innovation to the preparatory work concerning the European internal market.

We strengthened the domestic development of the health sector in many ways. Together with stakeholders, we mapped the situation through workshops and surveys. We created a long-term vision that challenges our society to reform. We carried out a series of projects and gathered experiences and lessons to bring about change.

What did we achieve?

Recommendations for health sector reform

Our long-term vision for the health sector challenges our society to reform and to use data and digitalisation in a fairer and more purposeful way. Our study shows that by harnessing the power of social and health data and making more efficient use of it, we can ensure high quality social and health services in the future while containing costs.

Business development through the data economy will gain momentum as Finnish companies seize the opportunities offered by the EU’s internal market and the European Health Data Space streamlines the future use of data with fair rules created under Sitra’s leadership.

Innovations and new services are increasingly being created in collaborative networks or ecosystems that use data, so there is a need to agree on the principles of data sharing. New data-driven methods in medical research, treatment and rehabilitation will make everyday life easier in many ways. Together with stakeholders, we mapped the state of play from several perspectives. We also explored a new aspect, planetary health, which examines the magnitude of the interaction between the natural and human environment for our well-being.

We incorporated the insights and lessons learned into our publications, which provide recommendations on strengthening the sector, breaking down barriers and the practical use of health data.

Lessons from experiments to inform legislation and everyday healthcare

Our pilot projects promoted the fair use of health data in Finland. We gathered practical experience and lessons learned on the use of health data in collaborative networks – ecosystems, drug trials and the use of digital apps in patient care and rehabilitation.

Positive results, such as the use of digital applications in patient care, will encourage their wider use in well-being services counties in Finland. Fair data economy tools, such as Sitra’s Rulebook for a Fair Data Economy, were also found to be suitable for use by health collaboration networks. The trials also highlighted development needs that need to be addressed both in legislative work and in everyday healthcare and the sector as a whole.

Fair rules for health data for the benefit of all Europeans

In the TEHDAS project, co-funded by the EU and led by us, we worked with 25 countries to address the specific problems in the use of data across Europe. The starting point was that the use of health data in EU countries is limited, mainly due to legal barriers and different interpretations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in different countries.

We pushed for EU-wide legislation and common rules to enable the use of health data for the benefit of people, businesses, researchers and society as a whole. We highlighted Finland’s strengths and experiences in the beneficial use of health data and our progressive regulation in this area. A large number of experts from Finland and other European countries participated in the work.

What is the significance of future work?

Recommendations from our publications have been included in Finland’s 2023 government programme. The main ones include enabling the use of AI in preventive healthcare and implementing the Sustainable Growth Programme to strengthen the competitiveness of the health sector.

The positive experience of patients and nursing staff in using digital apps led , at the end of some projects, to the preparations for their continued use in several of the localities where the pilot projects took place.

Our work on the European Health Data Space continues, with the European Commission launching preparations for a project following the completion of the TEHDAS project. Sitra, appointed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, has been selected by the member states to lead the TEHDAS 2 project, which will start in 2024 and will focus on the implementation of EHDS legislation in the member states.

As the Health Data 2030 project came to an end, Sitra is preparing a new project focusing on health data, of which TEHDAS 2 will be a part. The aim is also to use and disseminate the results and recommendations of the completed project to support health sector reform.

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Development phase of data-driven ecosystems and networks 2023


The planet and us (summary)


Planetary health


Is the European Health Union ready for the challenges of the 21st century?


Advancing data sharing to improve health for all in Europe


Towards planetary health (summary)


The Finnish health sector growth and competitiveness vision 2030


Powering the social health and social care system with data (summary)


How can digital therapeutics help Europe?


Future opportunities and challenges for data-driven ecosystems in the health sector (summary)


Health innovation ecosystems need top research, professionals, technology and data.

Health sector drivers found in collaborative networks using data with fair rules


New methods can make drug trials easier, but problems remain


Digital health apps make everyday life smoother, but savings come later


Sitra has been appointed to lead a project of 29 European countries to boost the use of health data


Better products, services and insight – data-sharing networks reap rewards of collaboration


Sitra survey: plenty of trust but funding and business expertise needed – impetus from data for joint innovation


Interdependence between the state of the environment and human well-being should guide policy-making


The use of European health data revolutionised through extensive cooperation


Patients using a self-monitoring app are more open and can better remember to report how they are doing

Leena Karjalainen with a bike

Do I really need this snack?

Tarja Viitanen sits on the lawn, with a building and trees in the background. On top is a sticker that says digital therapeutics.s.

The most devilish addiction possible

The trials of the Onnikka weight management app was tested in Central Finland.

Four per cent weight loss by using a mobile app

Ulla Koskinen holding a bunch of celeries.

A stick of celery in the morning takes the hunger away

The doctor and patient look at the health app on their phone. The nurse pulls on her gloves.

Digital healthcare apps make everyday life easier and curb costs – patients and healthcare professionals want more tools for managing medical conditions


Strong determination to promote the safe use of health data in Europe


Clinical trials need national co-operation and more resources

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