In the 1980s Finns were pioneers, with Ilkka Kunnamo, MD, creating the first electronic edition of the physicianâs reference book Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) Guidelines for distribution on floppy disks. This database, published by Duodecim Medical Publications, has since gained international popularity and been translated into seven different languages including English, Russian, German and Estonian. Now there is an even greater challenge - China, with a population exceeding one billion.
Owned by the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim, Duodecim Medical Publications went to China in spring 2006 as part of the Chinese-Finnish Healthy China project. Search for partners and exploration of the operating environment has already begun.
"We're yet to gain a clear picture of things such as which western medicines are used in different parts of China or the influence of traditional Chinese medicine behind practices," says CEO Pekka Mustonen.
"The basic features of the EMB Guidelines include that it's up-to-date and classifies care practice guidelines in accordance with the scientific evidence behind them," Mustonen continues. Continuous updates require a lot from partners. "The essence of the more than 5,000 medical articles published every day is filtered, and scientific evidence supporting each guideline is evaluated." Therefore the search is on - not only for a professional business partner but also for an enthusiastic editorial board consisting of medical practitioners and researchers.
New business model for health care technologies
The Healthy China project is about the prevention of lifestyle diseases such as adult onset diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Lifestyle diseases have become more common in China with the westernisation of diet and increased prevalence of sit-down work.
"The idea behind the Healthy China project is to bring Finnish and Chinese expertise and technologies together," says technology expert Jaani Heinonen, Chief Representative of Tekes Shanghai. The Finnish coordinators of the project are Tekes and Finpro, and the Chinese partners are Shanghai's Huashan Hospital, Hudan University and key public authorities.
Healthy China has been underway for a year and a half. "So far we have mainly been assessing Chinese care models and searching for key actors for the project," says Heinonen.
A future objective is to establish a Finnish-Chinese Centre at the Key Lab of Health Technology of Huashan Hospital. The Centre would be supported by a disease management programme providing an up-to-date overview of the patientâs status. Information technologies specialising in diagnosis, monitoring and risk management could then be incorporated into it â with the EBM Guidelines as a prime example. The Centre would offer a variety of services including foot examinations in diabetic patients, physiotherapy and advice related to physical activity and diet.
"Our ultimate aim is to find a comprehensive business model that enables us to expand the pilot project to other sectors," says Heinonen. Project plans currently reach 2008, the year in which expansion is planned.
Chinese medicine meets Finnish technology
"Finnish health care know-how and tools are unique even on a global scale," says Heinonen. "There's a lot of research, and organisations such as the National Public Health Institute and the Finnish Heart Association have done groundbreaking work in disease prevention and health promotion."
Finland also has many businesses that have developed products related to issues such as health monitoring and disease prevention. Finns have also excelled in functional foods. Says Heinonen, "Integrating traditional Chinese medicine with Finnish technologies is a fascinating new area."
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