EUHA visits Helsinki University Hospital: Exploring new future-proof ways of healthcare

DATE February 15th, 2024

EUHA delegation visited Helsinki University Hospital to gain insights from the Finnish Health and Social Care reform that was implemented in 2023. The visit was part of EUHA’s ongoing efforts to explore innovative future-proof ways of sustainable and resilient healthcare.

All over Europe, healthcare systems are facing major challenges: a rapidly ageing population with growing care needs, increasing treatment costs, and dealing with a shortage of healthcare staff. Climate change and war pose further external threats that will also require responses from the healthcare sector. These factors threaten the sustainability and resilience of European healthcare systems and already weaken the capacity to respond to uncertainties in the future.

EUHA members recognise that they face many similar challenges and the cross-border nature of some of the challenges warrant an EU-wide collaboration to develop solutions. This is reinforced by the urgency of finding solutions, with many studies putting forward a deadline for implementing changes of 10 to 20 years. University hospitals have a public duty to innovate, investigate, and propose solutions, not only for university hospitals but for the entire healthcare system, and it is for these reasons that EUHA is setting up the ‘Rethinking Healthcare Systems’ initiative.  

EUHA organised several workshops and events around the topic and is gathering experts to rethink our healthcare models to help our countries and the European level to find solutions. In preparation for the campaign with experts, EUHA paid a study visit to Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) to gain insight into the largest-ever social and healthcare reform in Finland implemented in 2023.

Despite the Finnish Healthcare System consistently producing commendable outcomes, 2023 marked a pivotal moment with the introduction of the Health and Social Care Reform. The reform aimed to streamline funding streams into the healthcare system, enhancing national control over governance, stewardship, and budgeting, while simultaneously addressing disparities in access to care. HUS, globally recognised for providing outstanding healthcare, served as the ideal backdrop for the EUHA study visit to learn about the details and impact of this transformative reform.

The reform brought the new Health and Wellbeing Counties, a novel governance level tasked with oversight and budget allocation for health, social care and rescue services. In the Uusima region, which includes Helsinki, the municipality retained responsibility for overseeing the HUS budget alongside the four Wellbeing and Service Counties (WBSCs). This collaborative governance structure exemplifies a concerted effort to unify decision-making processes and financial allocations, promising a more coordinated and effective healthcare system.

From our study visit, it became evident that in the first year of implementation, the focus has been on establishing the new system and that the joint control exercised by the Wellbeing and Service Counties provides a solid foundation for employing strategic commissioning to promote the integration of care. A key lesson learned is the critical role of data integration as an enabler for comprehensive, person-centred care. Despite the unified data system used in the Helsinki region for health and social care, existing legislation hampers the seamless connection of information at an individual level.

The study visit also highlighted the need for sustainable funding models, particularly for university hospitals. An effective healthcare system must consider the unique challenges and responsibilities of university hospitals, including education, research, and the treatment of complex cases, all of which contribute to increased costs.

As we conclude this insightful visit, we express our gratitude to Helsinki University Hospital for their warm hospitality and the insight that their colleagues provided.

EUHA remains committed to following the ongoing implementation of the Health and Social Care model in Finland, anticipating positive outcomes for both the healthcare professionals and the communities they serve.