Finland has exceptionally extensive and high-quality data resources in health and social care, which opens up unique possibilities for scientific research, drug and health technology development and knowledge-based management in social and health care. The approval of a new act enables researchers, service developers and other data users to collect, combine and process data from different Finnish registries more smoothly and securely in the future.
On March 13th, 2019, the Finnish Parliament accepted the act on the secondary use of health and social care data, which brings all regulations related to the secondary utilization of health and social care data under the same law. The aim of the law is to encourage and accelerate the use of Finnish registry data in medical research as well as generate new opportunities for innovation and development activities. The major revision is that all services related to the secondary use of health and welfare data will be provided by one authority, based on “one-stop-shop” principle.
To discuss about the future prospects of registry research in Finland after the law approval, we interviewed Anne Pitkäranta, Research Director at HUS Helsinki University Hospital, the biggest healthcare district in Finland and one of the biggest university hospitals in Europe.
Data permits and services will be provided by a single service operator
“For data users, “one-stop-shop” principle will significantly reduce bureaucracy and streamline and speed up access to various data sources” Anne Pitkäranta describes.
Instead of having to apply for separate permissions from several different data owners, a single central operator issues and grants research permits, including ethical evaluation. After granting the permission to use data, the service operator collects relevant data from different registers and edits, combines and anonymizes the data before distributing it to the user. The service provider will also ensure that data handling and transfer of data occurs in a secure environment and that the process meets all the requirements defined by Finnish law.
“The law opens access to totally new data sources, giving more possibilities to utilize Finnish welfare data. Most importantly, combining data from different sources, for example public registries with patient records or biobank data, will be more straightforward”, Pitkäranta underlines.
Some examples of data sources available for users are the Kanta service, which includes electronic prescription data and detailed patient data from public and private healthcare providers, and Finnish Quality registries.
Health and welfare data can be harnessed for broader use
Besides research and public authorization purposes, the new act enables the utilization of Finnish health and social care data in development and innovation actions aiming at, e.g., promotion of public health, healthcare service development, or protection of individual health. By adopting a broader concept of research, the new law gives both public and private operators plenty of novel possibilities to harness Finnish registry data: development of personalized medicine, medical technologies and digital health solutions, or optimizing services – just to name a few.
Writer: Aino Vesikansa, Medical Writer, MedEngine Oy