Impressive results, new ideas and interaction at the CleverHealth Network annual seminar

The annual seminar of the CleverHealth Network ecosystem (CHN), held on 18 January 2024, brought together experts from the industry and research sectors, sharing a common interest in digital healthcare solutions and their development. The event showcased a range of fresh research findings, new EU projects, and initiatives making progress from R&D to commercialisation. The ecosystem's collaboration is yielding concrete outcomes, including therapies that both improve patient quality of life and enhance healthcare processes, with far-reaching impacts. The interactive event exuded the spirit of genuine ecosystem collaboration, thanks to both the excellent speakers and the proactive participants.


Great progress within the ecosystem

Chief Medical Officer Markku Mäkijärvi conveyed greetings from the HUS (Helsinki University Hospital) management in his opening speech. He stated that the CleverHealth Network has established itself as a well-known innovation ecosystem in digital healthcare and a form of collaboration, where companies and healthcare professionals jointly develop digital solutions for real clinical needs by utilizing data. This strongly supports the strategy and development goals of HUS aiming to become the leading academic hospital in the Nordic countries, and also supports the development needs brought by the health and social services reform in Finland. He emphasized also that in addition to the joint R&D it is important to be able to implement the developed solutions in practice which is already happening in CHN.


Project Director Mirka Tammi was delighted that the first CHN projects have just transitioned from the development phase to commercialization, with the Home Dialysis project leading the way. The innovative collaboration model within CHN between the public and private sectors has proven very important in this healthcare transformation. The ecosystem activities have been systematically developed over its six years of operation through collaboration between HUS, Spinverse, Business Finland and the member companies. The companies are strongly committed to the current operating model and the joint development of Finnish healthcare.


At the heart of the CHN collaboration is high-quality health and wellbeing data. HUS Acamedic, the secure, certified, and scalable virtual research and analytics environment for secure processing of health data of HUS data lake plays a crucial role in implementing research and development projects that utilize data widely. It enables, for example, secure international collaboration without transferring data. In addition to data security, attention is also paid to the ethical development of AI algorithms, as discussed by HUS Project Director Mikko Rotonen in his presentation on the ethical guidelines for responsible use of AI.


Results with high impact

The seminar's results section provided more detailed insights into the achievements of four projects at different stages. The project leader for the Home Dialysis project, Nephrologist Virpi Rauta from HUS, shared the journey of the recently completed Home Dialysis project from idea to a pre-commercial service solution. The project has implemented a comprehensive, automated service solution that safely enables demanding home dialysis care, bringing security to the patient's daily life. At the same time, professionals have access to an easy-to-use interface that displays information in real time. All data related to treatments is transferred either automatically from devices or through electronic forms filled out by the patient, making it visible to both the patient and the care team all the time, not just during hospital control visits every 2-3 months as it happens now. Patients also have access to an ordering system that allows for the individualized ordering of necessary dialysis supplies.


This solution is now being productized together with Fujitsu. Joonas Siitonen, Head of Healthy Living at Fujitsu, told that the new home dialysis service solution makes use of Fujitsu's remote care ecosystem and extensive partnership network. The developed operating model also allows for a significant scalability potential and increase in home care for other key chronic diseases, aiming to alleviate acute cost pressures and lack of resources in healthcare.


Development Manager Mikko Kytö from HUS presented a mobile application developed in the project on the remote monitoring of gestational diabetes (eMOM GDM), which compiles the lifestyle and glucose levels of gestational diabetics into a real-time view. This includes interfaces developed for both patients and healthcare personnel and their integration into a service solution that improves the patient's self-management of gestational diabetes. The results of the app's impact on the glucose balance of gestational diabetics are very promising. Next, the service application now developed will move to the practical piloting phase, which is scheduled to start in Helsinki's maternity clinics this year. This is an important step towards the real productization/commercialization phase, which is also prepared by the project's main partner, Fujitsu.


Lead Data Scientist Teijo Konttila from Tietoevry presented the results of the Diagnostics of Rare Diseases project. Rare diseases can be difficult to diagnose, often leading to long and expensive delays in diagnosis and starting of treatment. Patients may have to visit several different specialists and suffer from their symptoms for a long time. The project recently compared two different AI models in the diagnostics of three rare diseases and studied the cost-effectiveness of a clinical support system in the diagnosis of a rare disease, vasculitis. The results demonstrate the potential, cost-effectiveness, and usefulness of AI-assisted decision support in the accelerated diagnosis of difficult-to-diagnose diseases.


Research Physician Ville Vartiainen from HUS provided fresh results from the multidisciplinary E3 project (Excellence in Pandemics Response), which brings together medical doctors, aerosol physicists as well as indoor air and building technology professionals. The project studies the transmission routes of airborne pathogens, as well as virus monitoring and detection methods, and develops solutions to keep indoor air clean and safe in offices, public spaces, and transportation, allowing to keep the society up and running safely even during epidemics and pandemics. In a recent pilot study conducted in daycare, the use of air purifiers was shown to have a significant impact - reducing children's morbidity by up to 30% according to preliminary results. This has a big societal impact not only on the daily lives of families with children but also in terms of cost through parents' absences from work. In Helsinki's daycare centers alone, air purification could save an estimated €20 million annually.


International collaboration taking further steps 

Markku Heino, Ecosystem Leader at Spinverse, presented the main outlines of the CleverHealth Network's internationalization plan to kick off the session. Important areas include marketing, validation, and scaling of CHN project results globally, collaboration with selected foreign ecosystems or hubs, involving foreign R&D partners in projects, and building international projects. Recently, several significant EU projects have been built, bringing an international dimension to the ecosystem.


Katariina Gehrmann, Director of Digital and Innovation Services at HUS, introduced the PHEMS project launched in Autumn 2023, aiming to enhance the use of health data collected from hospitals among European children's hospitals and create new opportunities for hospital data lakes benefiting innovations, scientific research, and patient care in the field of pediatric diseases. The project builds technical solutions and common data protection principles among hospitals so that sensitive information in the registers does not need to be transferred out of hospitals for analysis. Instead, comparison and cooperation between hospitals in different European countries is possible without data transfer. In addition, technological solutions are being developed to create synthetic data equivalent to original patient data to support scientific research and development work.


Project Manager Nea Hellman from HUS presented the ONCOVALUE project, which aims to automate data collection and analytics in the evaluation of the real-world effectiveness of cancer treatments. The main goal of the four-year project, which started last year, is to collect real-world data (RWD) from European cancer centers as comprehensively and accurately as possible and thus obtain reliable information on the real-world effectiveness of cancer therapies given to patients. The project aims to develop a standardized and automated method for collecting data using AI and machine learning from both structured and unstructured data so that it is reliable, consistent, and comparable between the participating hospitals. The goal is that the federated model can provide information, for example, on the real-life efficacy of a particular drug from several different hospitals, thus providing a broader knowledge base for decision-making.


Development Manager Katariina Rouvinen from HUS showcased the extensive TEF project (Testing and Experimentation Facilities for Health AI & Robotics), which aims to promote the use of AI and robotics in healthcare. The project brings a broad network of testing and piloting facilities available for healthcare development projects. From Finland, the project partners include Metropolia, City of Helsinki and HUS.


The event concluded with an interactive networking session, where presentations were collectively digested, insights shared and new ideas actively discussed among the cross-disciplinary group of participants.