Finland well positioned to take a big bite of the healthcare Internet of Things market

Finland well positioned to take a big bite of the healthcare Internet of Things market

Digital Health
connected health

Finland well positioned to take a big bite of the healthcare Internet of Things market

In 15 years, our healthcare will look very different, thanks to the Internet of Things. Finland is in an excellent position to meet the age of interconnected devices and new business opportunities with its top-notch healthcare, digitalized health databases, and leading technology know-how.

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is about utilizing interconnected sensors and analyzing large amounts of data from these sensors as well as from archived databases. In the health sector, IoT will improve the quality of care while cutting service providers’ costs considerably, as home monitoring and care increase and the need for inpatient wards decreases. Furthermore, it will offer opportunities for businesses and countries that are quick to develop new solutions. estimates that the value of the healthcare IoT market will reach 117 billion dollars by 2020. Expectations for the entire IoT market vary, but according to IDC, the total spend may grow to 1.3 trillion dollars by 2019 with a compound annual growth rate of 17%.

Finland is in an outstanding position to seize the opportunities of the Internet of Things in healthcare. Its healthcare system is among the best in the world, while its globally recognized strengths also include comprehensive nationwide digital registers and databases going back decades. Finns are highly educated and avid users of smart devices, and Finland has leading expertise in developing new technologies.

“Finland could take a similar bite of the healthcare IoT market as Nokia took of the mobile phone market in the 1990s. In fact, with our healthcare system and technology expertise, the chances are even better now,” says Vilho Ahola.

The future: Synthetic organs and artificial intelligence

Vilho Ahola is a doctor and entrepreneur involved in two Finnish healthtech startups. An ardent technology enthusiast, he follows the development of the Internet of Things closely and is happy to envision some of the changes it will bring about in healthcare.

“Implanted organs and artificial intelligence will take over a large share of doctors’ work in the next 15 years. For instance, a synthetic pancreas will relay health data from a diabetic patient to the hospital system. Artificial intelligence and algorithms then monitor and adjust the synthetic organ. Doctors will still be needed, though, because artificial intelligence cannot understand the human aspect – how things like a divorce or depression can affect physical health. The role of a doctor will resemble that of a coach or an interpreter between the patient and artificial intelligence,” Ahola says.

The Internet of Things will provide healthcare operators with an increasing amount of health data from a plethora of sensors. Beds, refrigerators, shopping carts, ovens – our furniture, devices, and clothing – will collect health data and communicate with one another.

“This data will accumulate in databanks, where artificial intelligence will monitor it and give an alert if, for example, our diet is too poor or we are not getting enough exercise or rest. In addition to preventive healthcare, this will provide a ready stock of information, which will help discover the causes of sudden illnesses quickly. It may take more than 15 years for healthy people to have sensors implanted in their bodies, but implants will be commonplace for people suffering from illnesses.”

According to Ahola, the biggest impact of the healthcare IoT will likely emerge through those who are of poorest health and unable to participate in their own healthcare.

“Better health monitoring and risk prevention among people with poor health and social problems will save both lives and costs,” he says.

Keys to the IoT market: Cooperation and sensor development

The IoT market is growing rapidly. The industrial sector and consumer electronics and appliances are leading the way but healthcare is quickly following. Vilho Ahola believes that small and flexible startups will continue to drive the IoT development, and large multinationals will enter the market mainly by acquiring startups.

“We will see lots of corporate acquisitions and international mergers in the coming years. Big multinational corporations have the resources to spread and commercialize  new healthcare solutions both in the private and public sector, so cooperation between small and agile developers and big corporations is essential,” Ahola says.

Finland’s thriving startup community is constantly working on new technology, and the country’s on-going social welfare and healthcare reform may boost and open new cooperation opportunities for companies and public healthcare service providers.

“Finland has huge export potential particularly in health sensor development. The market is global, while medical recommendations, treatment and people are the same everywhere. This means that solutions developed for the Finnish healthcare system are instantly applicable anywhere in the world. There is certainly room in the healthcare IoT market for more Finnish solutions.”

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