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Let’s make the most of social and healthcare information

Business intelligence and mutually compatible information systems save lives and money.

Photo: Sari Gustafsson

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In the future, the Isaacus system, currently being developed, will combine the data resources and their users easily and securely. This promotes the involvement of individuals, enhances well-being and creates a constantly updated ecosystem of well-being and health. In the series of blogs on Isaacus, experts will highlight the subject from their own perspective.

Let’s make the most of social and healthcare information – and save lives and money

Everybody can benefit from business intelligence (BI) and mutually compatible information systems. They enable up-to-date information to be communicated securely, reliably and quickly to all who need it. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel either, since the BI model that has proven effective in Eksote and Kainuu can be adopted elsewhere, including in the current social welfare and healthcare reforms.

Information systems play a significant role in social welfare and healthcare. Modern hospitals now use hundreds of programmes. While they do not always need to talk to each other, compatibility often translates into faster action and fewer mistakes. In some cases, information transfer saves money or even lives. Money is saved when a genetic test for diagnosing lactose intolerance does not have to be carried out every time a patient visits a doctor with a complaint about stomach pains. Information on prescriptions or allergies can save a patient’s life. And many more opportunities could be provided by working with a range of organisations and the general public.

Information transfer covers internal data and transfers between organisations. Kanta, the national health information service (www.kanta.fi), provides additional opportunities for information transfer. However, data protection requirements are impeding the use of such data. When is it in the patient’s interest to prevent a specialist, a doctor, from seeing health data? On the other hand, professionals have an obligation not to disclose private information.

With Sitra’s support, the South Karelia Social and Health Care District has developed a BI model and published a manual which helps other organisations to adopt the model. According to the report “How is the social welfare and health care reform being carried out?”, which offers insights into the provision of services for older people in particular, Eksote has been able to significantly reduce projected costs by introducing the BI model to the management system. The BI model has also been adopted in Kainuu.

Use of comprehensive data hampered by data protection

South Karelia is one of the autonomous areas where, excluding private provision, social and healthcare services are provided by a single organisation. This has facilitated the development and adoption of the BI model. In my own region, Southwest Finland, the equivalent services are provided by 25 municipalities and joint municipal authorities instead of a single organisation.

Using the BI model, anonymised data on visits, contacts and costs is paired with a personal identity code and updated automatically every day, making it quickly available in support of decision-making. If professionals in Southwest Finland wished to collect similar data, they could do so through a research project. However, the application for and processing of research authorisations and the collection and aggregation of the related data would take several months.

If an agreement on system ownership and cost allocation were made, the BI model could be used across several organisations or even nationally. However, before then the information security and data protection issues would need to be addressed in more detail. In my research paper, “Business Intelligence in social welfare and health care. An assessment of the business intelligence model developed in the South Karelia Social and Health Care District” (in Finnish only), I discuss the opportunities created by the BI model in new fields and across Finland. Thanks to our small population, the capacity of databases and information systems is unlikely to hinder us in taking a more systematic approach to information processing.

BI in the social welfare and healthcare reform

Will Finland continue to build fractured systems based on old technology, or should we take another look at this issue as we reorganise our social and healthcare provision. 

Even if the widespread reform of information systems were to prove unfeasible, adoption of the BI model in a nationwide setting would help to improve comparability and information management. When a new system is developed, the range of needs should be gauged across organisations benefiting from business intelligence.

As the manager of my own well-being and as a citizen, I would like to collate my doctors’ observations and comment on them, monitor my laboratory test results and combine them with sleep, exercise and other data I have collected myself – using a smart device, for example. For researchers, a national database along the lines of Eksote’s BI model would be a genuine treasure trove. To support decision-making, social and healthcare data should be combined with detailed information on service structures, employees and other resources.

Independent and sensible systems development, which does not have the earnings potential of system providers as its key concern, deserves the backing of all of us. I hope that as many of you as possible will leave comments at www.otakantaa.fi (page in Finnish and Swedish) on the information system projects initiated within Finland’s public services.

#isaacus

Sitra is currently engaged in pilot projects to develop service packages in more than 50 municipalities. The pilots are facilitating more efficient means of generating and using social and healthcare data and comparing social and healthcare services across Finland. You will find more information on the projects here (Finnish only). The social and healthcare business intelligence model helps with the adoption of such service packages.


Topic

Business intelligence

Using business intelligence to boost planning and decision-making in the social welfare and healthcare sector.

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