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Innovation competition provided new ideas to apply digitalisation and artificial intelligence on hospital care paths

Published on 29.11.2022
Tampere University
Winners and evaluators
The innovation competition Patient Journey Challenge Innovation Award 2022 seeked for solutions to specific pain points on the hospital care path of breast cancer and in pathology diagnostics. On Friday November 25th, the suggestions of three teams were announced as winners. The winning solutions apply digital tools and artificial intelligence.

It was the third time that Tampere University Hospital (Tays), Tampere University and a pharmaceutical and diagnostics company Roche organized a joint innovation competition in Tampere. The competition aimed at solving problems on hospital care paths in treating breast cancer as well as in pathology diagnostics.   

"The best innovations are found as problems are approached from different perspectives: either near the patient or with the help of a scientific or technical knowledge. That is why we wanted to broadly encourage professionals within health care, researchers, other personnel, start-up companies and students to innovate", says Janne Heikkilä, Healthcare System Partner at Roche. 

Digital communication reaches faster

On the care path of breast cancer, solutions were seeked to two pain points identified that were both related to patients’ wait times. In the first pain point, the patient receives a referral to Tays due to an abnormal change in the breast and needs to wait for the next steps from the surgery clinic. 

A team consisting of health care professionals and studying development and management of social and health care in Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK), suggested a web site to be established to tackle the stress caused by the waiting. The team included Anni Kiuru (Tays Valkeakoski), Silja Tuominen (Fimlab), Raisa Hiltunen (Terveystalo), and Outi Asikainen (Family Support Centre Päiväperho). The web site was suggested to be called “Ask the breast cancer nurse”. 

"Such a web site would ease the stress caused by not knowing and needing to wait. Simultaneously, it would provide the patients with reliable information. In addition, we suggest that the Tays mobile application TaysPolku is taken into use for breast cancer patients as it already is available for many other care paths. The mobile application enables following the patient’s own care path in real time", explains Kiuru.  

In the other breast cancer pain point, the patient who has gone through a surgery, needs to wait for several weeks to have an appointment at the oncology clinic and to hear about further treatment. Nurses Iida Ketola, Titta Leponiemi and Iisa Vaskikallio from Tays oncology clinic suggested a winning solution to this pain point. 

The winners suggested that a patient would receive a scheduled internet message from the clinic. It would describe how the case is proceeding and when the patient will be contacted. In addition, an inquiry would be made to identify such patients that require earlier contacting. 

"There is a need to assist the patients being transferred from the surgery clinic to the oncology clinic. Performing an inquiry allows identifying the most anxious patients as well as other patients requiring support", explains Vaskikallio. 

Artificial intelligence in diagnostics

The pain point in pathology diagnostics seeked for better use of algorithms in clinical pathology diagnostics. There are hundreds of promising algorithms available. However, getting them into clinical use is slow and challenging. 

The winning solution named Reliable artifical intelligence for pathology diagnostics was suggested by doctoral researchers Aysen Degerli and Mete Ahishali from the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences in Tampere University.

"Our solution exploits artificial intelligence and enhances pathology diagnostics as well as its repeatability, and provides the pathologist with extensive amounts of objective data", says Degerli.

There were altogether 16 suggestions to the pain points related to breast cancer and five suggestions to the pain point in pathology diagnostics. The innovations were evaluated by a steering group, including representatives from Tays, Tampere University, and Roche. The decision was done jointly with chief physician Mika Tirkkonen from Fimlab and Chief of Division (Department of oncology) Maarit Bärlund from Tays. Both Tirkkonen and Bärlund were also involved in defining the pain points for the competition.

"One of the selection criteria was, whether a solution can lean on some already existing system or tool in Tays. The winning innovations in breast cancer care path are already being further developed to be taken into use."

Text: Anne Kohtala, Tays
Translation: Kaisa Aho, TAU

Congratulations to all winners of the innovation competition! In the image from the left: Iisa Vaskikallio, Titta Leponiemi, Mete Ahishali, Iida Ketola, Aysen Degerli, Silja Tuominen, Mika Tirkkonen, Outi Asikainen, Anni Kiuru, Maarit Bärlund, Raisa Hiltunen, and Janne Heikkilä.