Service innovation project to create new information channelThe mass of information and data on Finnish health and social policy is to be put to smart use, under a new service innovation project. The aim is to make data and information more easily accessed and used. The project will amass information online to help inform the public debate on social and health policy and practice. This is to be done using online facilities. These involve a ‘Service Scale' to make information available, and a virtual community for creating, assessing and using operational models. "Information is the driving force of public discussion and can increase the demand for new operational models," says the director of the programme Juha Teperi.
"The aim of the service innovation project is to support the reform of the service system. "By international comparisons, social and health services work well in Finland. But we are faced with challenges that we cannot meet using current methods," says Teperi.
"Functionality is a common name for service availability, quality, efficiency and equity. According to the Finnish Constitution, services must be provided to those who need them. For it to have a sustainable basis, the service system must be efficient in order that the funding is sufficient for its maintenance."Service Scale to start in 2011
"We already have quite a lot of information on the functionality of services, but this information is dispersed, difficult to find and is not utilized. From the beginning of 2011 the Service Scale will compile existing information on all areas," Teperi explains.
There will no new indicators created for the Service Scale, which instead will be a distribution channel for existing information. It will be made easy to use, so that anyone can understand the information gathered by it.
The data and information on social and health services compiled in the Service Scale will be available according to municipality and service unit. For instance, users will be able to check such things as the waiting periods to see a doctor or service charges, and how they compare on average nationally and with neighbouring municipalities.
Teperi hopes that the information will give rise to discussion on the functionality and costs of services.
A similar approach used in Denmark has fuelled public debate and quickened the development of the service system. Organizations providing services have had to explain the results of their activities.
"I think that the Service Scale will work similarly in Finland and give an impetus to developing the system. Informed discussion will increase the demand to develop new operational models and activity. Though we have new operational models there needs to be more demand for them in order that they would be put into practice."
The MSAH and other actors have funded thousands of social and health care projects. Though well funded the experience has been that the results of even the best projects are often not fully utilized. Often, a project will have come to an end by the time its results are supposed to have been put into practice, meaning that there are no longer the resources to do so.New innovation service platform
"The beginning of November will see the launch of the Innokylä. This will provide a platform for creating, assessing and utilizing new operational models," says Teperi.
" Innokylä" derives from the Finnish words for ‘innovation' and ‘village', to describe the kind of virtual and actual community envisaged by the initiative.
"It will be so open and conspicuous that the various actors concerned - social and health service users, specialists, service providers, municipal decision-makers - will find it."
The service is being financed by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, in addition to the MSAH. The National Institute for Health and Welfare , the Finnish Federation for Social Welfare and Health and the Finnish Centre for Health Promotion are also involved in the initiative. It is being developed and constructed by a consortium, coordinated by the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. The initiative is also open to all relevant actors, such as the centres of expertise, polytechnics and public and private service providers.
The community comprises a number of hands-on activities, including an innovation bank, college, and library. An innovation clinic will enable different actors to develop in unison new kinds of service. There will be ‘innovation markets' at social and health sector events, which will present the Innokylä concept and its services.
The platform will enable representatives of municipalities to seek advice on how to develop services on various concerns and to find out about the latest service models that have been developed. Project funders will be able to evaluate the impact of the projects they finance.
Juha Teperi calls on municipalities to be involved in such development work despite the economic recession. He thinks that it is far better to examine how services can perform better than to cut them.
He says that no funder finances a project a hundred per cent and municipalities have to demarcate the money they will use for development.
"This may be hard for municipalities to do in the present financial situation. But if they do not utilize new opportunities to fund projects, money from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation will only go to the development of private services."
Translated Mark Waller