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While the electronic processing of social and health care information in Finland is progressing constantly, considerable efforts are still needed nation-wide. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will conduct a comprehensive assessment of electronic information management in this field with the involvement of international experts.
"The goal of the comprehensive assessment is to collect views on what is a sensible way to develop a package of data processing services for the health system in the future, and how it can best serve both the population and social and healthcare professionals," said Maria Guzenina-Richardson, the minister for social affairs and health.
"Efficient and reliable information and effective services in the field of social and health care are beneficial for all those concerned. Achieving this requires that all parties commit themselves to developing nation-wide projects. Only by working together will we produce sustainable national solutions and thus the basis for modern social and healthcare services," she added.
In 2009 the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health carried out a risk analysis of the development of IT projects in the field of healthcare. Based on the outcomes, the national electronic healthcare architecture project (KanTa) was reorganised and the necessary changes were made in the relevant legal framework. The Ministry agreed on conducting a new risk analysis of the KanTa project this year, as part of the comprehensive assessment planned.
The services composing the KanTa project (ePrescription, eArkisto electronic patient data repository) have been built; they are being introduced gradually in both public and private healthcare institutions. However, there is still much room for improvement in terms of the usability of local and regional patient information systems in order to enable them to be more compatible and meet information security requirements.
Currently, ePrescription is available in almost all pharmacies and further deployments are on the way. At the end of March 2012, pharmacies had dispensed drugs on the basis of ePrescription over 750 000 times to more than 200 000 people. The use of the electronic patient data repository eArkisto has been piloted in the city of Kuopio - the city's healthcare service archived the data of nearly 8 000 patients during three months.
Healthcare is a main policy sector and therefore IT costs in this field are high compared to those of many other sectors. The proportion of such costs in the healthcare system is nevertheless much lower than that of many other sectors.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, together with the Ministry of Finance and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities estimated that the total cost of the construction and the introduction of the national information systems is approximately €200 million. IT spending for the national systems themselves represents a small part of this amount; substantial costs are expected to be caused by, among other things, the update of local systems and the training of health professionals on their use.
Each organisation is responsible for the procurement of their information systems. Legislation and national information services that are now being introduced promote open interfaces and market transparency. Patient information is no longer tied to systems or organisational boundaries, and thus systems primarily compete in terms of their usability and easy replacement. Usability can be improved by increasing cooperation in procurement and the users' perspective in the authorities' planning.