Health data gives new boost to research and development

Significant steps forward are taken in Satakunta in the development of health technology and medical research. The objective of the cooperation between Satasairaala (formerly Satakunta Central Hospital) and SAMK is to harness the competence of RoboAI not only industry but also in the fields of automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and welfare technology to the benefit of medicine and healthcare.

Juho Salli ja Anu Holm talking to each other.

Anu Holm Pienempi

– We have a multidisciplinary team that together tries to find solutions for the challenges of this project. One head cannot possibly have all the knowledge needed in this project to reach the goal. We always learn tremendously from each other at joint meetings, Anu Holm praises.

– This is not only a three-year project. Instead, our main objective is to create a permanent model for cooperation developed together by the researchers of SAMK and Satasairaala to promote healthcare, Anu Holm tells us. Adjunct Professor Anu Holm is Project Manager and Head of the Artificial Intelligence Research Team at SAMK.

Cooperation is built around so-called innovation platforms. The other one is a research and development centre designed for Satasairaala, i.e. a simulation facility, which is currently being designed. In the simulation facility, health technology can be tested and developed in as authentic an environment as possible. Companies get direct feedback from healthcare professionals of the technologies tested in the simulation facility, and when product development has advanced, the product can be tested in clinical operation at hospital.

The testing of field research methods has been started in several projects. One example of the designed new service model is a model related to the identification of sleep apnoea. This model is connected to Pori Social and Healthcare Division and their Pori75 welfare clinic project.

– With the help of a small-scale device, sleep apnoea could be tested based on the symptoms in primary health care instead of specialized health care and thus gain savings, Holm explains.


We are fighting a huge amount of first stage pains to clear the road for future researchers to be able to do research on this data.


Data pool and utilization of data

The other innovation platform is Auria Clinical Informatics´ data pool that unifies the health information of thousands of patients during several decades into one data pool. The data pool contains specialized health care information from Satasairaala, Vaasa Central Hospital and Turku University Hospital, and data from individual municipalities´ primary healthcare as well as data from private laboratories. Utilization of data pool was made possible by the Act on the Secondary Use of Health and Social Data laid down in May 2019. The act creates better preconditions to use data for the research and innovation activities related to the citizens´ health, prevention of diseases and development of new treatment methods.

– It has been possible earlier as well to utilize health data in research but after the amendment to the act it can now be utilized for research and innovation activities. Knowledge management has been mentioned, too.

Extracting information from the pool is easy but the researcher needs to know on a variable level what to retrieve. In addition, secure processing of data is demanding. The aim is to lower the threshold for researchers and companies to use the data available by building technology around the pool and by offering consulting service. A customer service counter is under preparation in Satakunta, with the aim of assisting the researchers wrestling with research ideas.

– At this stage, the project requires a lot of manual work and automation. We are fighting a huge amount of first stage pains to clear the road for future researchers to be able to do research on this data, and for the companies in the field of medicine and healthcare to utilize the data, explains SAMK project manager Juho Salli, who is in charge of the technical implementation of the service model.


This is the most sensitive data in the country and I´m really neurotic about it.


Data security and supercomputers

– It is important that healthcare professionals collect real data, so that it can be utilized and analyses can be made of it. This should be better taken into account already at the training phase, reminds Salli.

Data security is at the centre of building the data pool. In order to administer a huge amount of information, secure data management software has to be built.

Salli is facing a huge challenge when building new software on the service model and feels a deep respect for data.

– This is the most sensitive data in the country and I´m really neurotic about it. Now we need to figure out how the data collected from Auria Clinical Informatics´ server can be executed securely and transferred from one user to another to be analyzed, Salli tells us

– Before statistics or neural networks can be made from the data with the help of AI, the greatest effort is data management and harmonization. Auria Clinical Informatics have already done 70 % of the work, when they collect data from different patient record systems and harmonize the data.

In the spring CSC supercomputers´ computing power will be utilized in this project. Before that, Salli has a few details to solve.

– The data of Auria data pool is located in Turku and the supercomputer of CSC in Kajaani and we are somewhere in-between. Besides a secure physical connection, needs of the diverse users need to be taken into account. I´m happy if I can work without a mouse on a black screen…

– But I´m not, cries out Holm.


Utilizing artificial intelligence and analytics opens a new path to the health data of the great masses, and thus totally new connections that have remained unnoticed can be found.


AI Academy students Joonas Nordlund and Erik Nurkkala are building data management software, with which to maintain registered information of personal data used at research. In future, there is a need for e.g. donation register software.

The sky´s the limit

Research permit enabling the use of data pool has currently only been asked by Satakunta Hospital District to use the data. A similar permit process is needed for the data of the other hospital districts located in Auria´s pool. In future, consulting service will help the researchers and companies together with Auria Clinical Informatics to proceed to the permit process, and thus utilize the data in data pool.

Utilizing the data pool is a significant step forward for the Finnish medical research and interesting also on an international level: a nationally consistent data pool of this magnitude does not exist anywhere else.

– There is a long tradition in Finland of registering patient information and saving data. Previously, besides doctors, the data mostly served biobanks and pharmaceutical plants. Because of the amendment to the act, it is now possible to utilize artificial intelligence and analytics and this opens up a brand new path to the health data of the great masses, and thus totally new connections that have remained unnoticed can be found, Holm reminds us enthusiastically.



Building of innovation platforms is funded by the Regional Council of Satakunta (European Regional Development Fund) and Satakunta University of Applies Sciences (SAMK).


For more information, please contact:

Anu Holm, Project Manager, Head of the Artificial Intelligence Research Team
tel. 044 710 3148 Juho Salli, Project Manager, New success factor of Satakunta: Robocoast AI
tel. 044 710 3329



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