Estonian IT expert recruited to help develop computer systems for Finnish health care
Madis Tiik created patient information system for Estonia
A key figure in the establishment of Estonia’s patient data system, doctor and IT expert Madis Tiik, has been recruited to the post of senior advisor by the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA to help develop computer systems for Finnish health care.
"You can see Tallinn from here by telescope", said SITRA director Antti Kivelä from the top floor of the SITRA tower in Helsinki’s Ruoholahti area.
Previously it was the Estonians that would look in the direction of Finland, but at least in electronic administrative systems, the roles have been reversed, and Estonia has overtaken Finland.
Tiik’s primary task at SITRA is to develop electronic self-treatment systems, but the recruitment is also linked with the proposed Finnish patient data system project, which has come under heavy criticism.
Tiik served as managing director of Estonia’s E-Tervise Foundation from 2007 to 2011, when the foundation helped set up an electronic patient data system for Estonia at a cost of just EUR 10 million.
The estimated cost of the proposed Finnish patient information system in the Uusimaa region alone is up to EUR 450 million, and for all of Finland it would be EUR 1.8 billion. Kivelä says that Tiik’s expertise in the matter "is available, if someone wants to use it".
Kivelä adds that Tiik’s recruitment is not directly linked with the patient data system project, "but it certainly strengthens our knowledge in the field".
Estonia’s system is clearly lighter than the one planned for Finland. The system set up in Estonia is not an all-encompassing one – it is more a set of standards and a language which makes it possible to search for information from different systems. The only new software that was acquired was the central database. No new patient information was gathered there, and the system was launched from scratch.
The system was not a gold mine for the companies involved. Hewlett-Packard and the Finnish company Affecto were paid a few million euros for developing the technology.
Tiik says that he does not know Finland’s intentions well enough to be able to comment on the massive price tags of the proposed system.
"It is not possible to compare mere numbers without knowing what is behind them."
Tiik says that in Estonia the main idea is lightness. The state did not even invest in hard disc space of its own, which is to be bought from outsiders – which naturally will cost something.
Could the Estonian model be copied directly to Finland?
"The structures are different. We did not have an old system to dismantle, nor did we build a completely new foundation. We merely produced a service which combines different types of information. For the end users we left the possibility to choose what programmes they want to use in the system", Tiik says.
He does not feel that it would be impossible for Finland to learn something from Estonia. Kivelä agrees: "We are trying to set up these kinds of monolithic systems where everything operates within a single system."
More on this subject:
Large companies hoard public IT projects
Previously in HS International Edition:
HUS to introduce more efficient patient data system (17.9.2012)