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Finland brings e-patient records and 5G into health tech testing

Oulu University Hospital in Finland is using replica electronic patient records to support technology testing

Oulu University Hospital (OYS) in northern Finland is expanding its health tech test lab with a replica of the hospital’s electronic patient records (EPR) system.

OYS TestLab is a Finnish health tech environment that trials the latest innovations in a simulated hospital space.

Kari Vatjus-Anttila, technical specialist at the TestLab, said the TestLab was a sandbox environment and not connected to OYS’s services. “When the e-patient system replica is deployed, companies can test that their own integrations work correctly in a hospital environment before they are used on a real ward.”

The replica e-patient system is due for deployment in late summer for companies to tap into for testing and training purposes. At the first stage, the replica system mainly offers access to anonymised patient and medication data, but more functions will be added later based on users’ needs.

While e-patient records are increasingly common in healthcare, Vatjus-Anttila said the opportunity for companies to access this level of integration for testing was unique in Finland and rare internationally.

Both the original and replica e-patient record systems have been developed in-house at OYS. The integration platform is provided by Intersystems.

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The TestLab itself was opened in early 2016 to offer a realistic hospital environment for companies and healthcare professionals to test healthcare products and services. The EU-funded, non-profit lab occupies about 300m2 of empty space, which can be transformed to simulate different hospital rooms and wards.

“Companies can receive first-hand feedback from healthcare professionals about whether their product or systems work as expected in a real environment,” said Vatjus-Anttila.

Recent experiments include wireless surgery equipment, a remote consulting system for intensive care and the use of machine vision to speed up diagnosis.

5G boost for healthcare

The TestLab is also looking into the potential of 5G in developing healthcare products. Finland’s first 5G test network was launched in Oulu in 2015 and a second has just been opened at the test laboratory.

“There are three small cell base stations, which cover the whole TestLab area,” said Vatjus-Anttila.

The equipment for the network is provided and maintained by Nokia. Vatjus-Anttila said 5G’s anticipated low latency and high capacity will open up new opportunities for health technologies.

“A direct improvement compared with traditional 4G LTE networks is that we can achieve real-time connections,” he said. “In a 4G network, latency is 40ms (milliseconds) to 50ms, whereas in 5G the aim is to have it down to 1ms. Furthermore bandwidth is vastly greater than in 4G, with potential to reach 10Gbps.”

One of the ways TestLab will put these capabilities to the test is by piloting real-time data communication support between an ambulance and the emergency department. In practice, the hospital would be able to monitor the patient in transit to have the precise facilities and tools ready on their arrival.

The TestLab is part of a wider health technology research and development ecosystem in Oulu, called OuluHealth Labs. The ecosystem covers two other test environments – Oamk SimLab and Oulu CityLab – which offer simulation environments for product development and testing with real users of the city’s health services.

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