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News 03.10.2023

Finnish health technology is the golden egg of exports that needs to be nurtured

The healthtech export day was held on 23.8.2023. Photo by Susanna Lehto.

The export of health technology products developed in Finland has grown every year over the past 20 years. This has accumulated a surplus of over 16 billion euros. The strengths of Finland's health sector have guaranteed the growth of health technology exports for several years now. This needs to be nurtured.

The growth has been based on the foundation of Finnish health care: high quality research, good education, and the availability of skilled workforce. We can go even better further when health and registry data can be properly accessed and when legislation and its interpretations support innovation and their implementation. Nor should we forget about the strong IT expertise created by Nokia.

This foundation has paved the way for the creation of innovations and the growth of born global companies. One third of the current health technology exports go to the United States, which is the most attractive market for many companies. China is the second largest export country with an 8 per cent share. Almost 40 per cent of exports go to Europe.

Future success built through seamless collaboration

It is important to continue investing in new core areas of health technology so that this important area of exports continues to grow. Investments are needed in artificial intelligence, machine learning, building digital platforms, functioning ecosystems, networks and finding new partners.

The health technology field is undergoing a transformation, traditional health sector export companies are harnessing new technologies to radically accelerate their business and find new efficiencies. Similarly, new challengers will emerge from other industries. Everyone must be ready for radical business development and seamless network-like operations.

Saara Hassinen, CEO of Healthtech Finland, is satisfied with the objectives of the Government Programme from health technology’s perspective.

“The Health Sector Growth Strategy, so important to the business, will continue as a research, development, and innovation programme. Business Finland accelerates the promotion of health technology use and export and has now launched the Healthcare Reimagined 2035 mission. Different programmes are currently being worked on based on this mission,” says Saara Hassinen.

Business Finland and Healthtech Finland organised the Great Export Day on 23 August 2023. The event gave representatives of the industry an opportunity to network and exchange their news and experiences in becoming international. Based on their own experiences, five top companies gave their tips on what is worthwhile and what should be avoided on the path to foreign markets.

Verso Vision improves patient safety

Based on artificial intelligence and image analysis, Verso Vision is a patient safety solution developed in Finland that automatically notifies the nurse on their mobile phone if the patient is at risk and needs help in their room.

“For example, in Australia our solution has reduced harmful customer falls by half in housing services for the elderly. This has a huge impact on the cost of care, decreasing human pain and saving the caregiver's time,” says Katja Taalas, Founder and CEO of Verso Vision Oy.

The company has rapidly expanded into several markets, including Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, and Ireland.

Buddy Healthcare cuts unnecessary customer visits

Health technology firm Buddy Healthcare's care coordination platform has been able to reduce the number of unnecessary customer visits before surgery by 45 per cent in the UK.

Previously, all patients travelled to the hospital before surgery to fill out a medical history form together with a nurse. Now almost half of patients fill out the form themselves on a mobile app, which significantly saves the nurse’s and patient’s time.

“'Our client NHS Lanarkshire has further noticed that there has been a marked reduction in calls thanks to the system's automated patient communication and reminders. Today, only 11 percent of patients need to contact the hospital before surgery,” says Jussi Määttä, CEO of Buddy Healthcare.

BeeHealthy digitizes the use of health services

Born in the over 100 years old Mehiläinen Group, BeeHealthy is digitizing the provision of health services and transforming the traditional sector this way.

On the company's platform, appointment booking, digital clinic, patient history, and treatment plans are all available to the customer on mobile devices, making it easier to use the health services but also means significant savings for the service provider. For example, the appointment function reduces the need for human labour in customer service considerably.

“We were in the vanguard of developing mobile solutions for health services, and during the COVID epidemic everyone understood they needed them. At the beginning, there was no significant demand in Finland, so our growth started abroad, and we immediately became a very international player. We are delighted that there is also a lot of demand for the solution in Finland today,” says Oskari Eskola, CEO of BeeHealthy.

MVision AI boosts radiotherapy planning

MVision AI is doing groundbreaking work in the use of artificial intelligence. The company's algorithm detects organs and tissues from computed tomography or magnetic resonance images and plots their 3D models to assist in the dose planning of radiotherapy as well as optimizing and standardizing it.

The algorithm helps to save healthy tissue of the patient, and it streamlines and speeds up treatment planning. In the UK, for example, MVision's algorithm is used to process about a quarter of all cancer radiotherapy patients. This generates about 2,750 images per month, and the algorithm speeds up the processing of each one by an average of 30 minutes. In total, approximately 1,375 man-hours are saved per month. In a year, MVision's algorithm processes more than 150,000 patient images in about 100 clinics.

“We are already present in 16 countries, but we felt that the United States is a strategic area for the company's future. When we applied for a license in 2021, an AI-based medical device was quite new to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so we are pioneers in this, too,” says Jarkko Niemelä, MVision CEO.

Orion is building a research ecosystem

Discovery Data Technology Lead Julius Sipilä was at the event to invite others to join the unique pharmaceutical research ecosystem Orion is building in Finland. It aims to reduce the development time of new innovative medicines and improve the chances of success through the use of data and artificial intelligence.

It is difficult to match the massive AI investments by the largest pharmaceutical companies directly. There is a lot of high-level know-how in Finland, but it is located in different organizations. By joining forces, Finnish pharmaceutical, biotechnology and technology companies, research institutes, and higher education institutions can succeed in fierce international competition.

Expect more experience sharing

Business Finland's health experts from more than ten hot spots worldwide were also present. They related their observations about emerging health sector business opportunities in their locations, future changes in legislation, or different reimbursement practices.

“A shortage of nurses, ageing population, and shortage of money is not just a Finnish problem. Around the world, solutions are being sought to reform healthcare practices and technologies. Here is a niche for Finnish solutions that you should go for together with other companies – becoming international starts at your own door,” says Terhi Rasmussen, Senior Advisor at Business Finland.

Companies have asked Business Finland for opportunities to share experiences and make spontaneous connections with peers. The spirit of the Export Day was to learn from each other's experiences and identify possible cooperation opportunities for the future.

“I am sure the honest speeches of the day – about successes as well as challenges in the market – left a lot to think about on the way home,” says Terhi Rasmussen.

At the Export Day, the speakers stressed the need for long-term thinking and working together and helping each other on the path to exports and international trade. This is why Healthtech Finland and Business Finland are already thinking about the contents of next year's export day.

Tips from the Export Day
  • Build a strong business case with proof points
  • Listen to the client, be flexible
  • If necessary, re-evaluate which market you are investing in, but when you go in, then do it as a “local”
  • Consider how to position yourself in the market
  • Allocate resources correctly and be a realist — it takes time to become international
  • Believe you have the best product – be proud!