Innovator’s Profile: Karita Reijonsaari Brings AI to Healthcare with Etsimo
Here at Vertical, we are excited about supporting brilliant ideas and brilliant people who make a change in the world.
There is nothing better, but uplifting startups who are transforming society with the help of innovation and technology. Recently Etsimo, a healthcare AI startup company we have worked closely with for years got a significant investment from, and partnership with, Terveystalo, the largest private healthcare company in Finland. We met up with Karita Reijonsaari, Director of Development of Public Sector at Terveystalo, to hear more about her interests in healthcare and background to her work with Etsimo.
Who are you?
I’m an enthusiast for developing healthcare services, living and working in Helsinki.
What is your professional background?
I have a history at Aalto University and Stanford University where I spent a decade studying healthcare operations management. Before joining Terveystalo I ran the Healthcare Consulting practice at PwC. Currently I work as the director of development of public sector.
Why are you in healthcare?
I’m in healthcare as I see it as a continuously developing field and a chance to do something good at the same time. My background is timely as we innovate new service models and ways of delivering more cost-effective public care.
What is the goal of Terveystalo and Etsimo partnership?
In my mind our goal is to learn from one another. We have a mutual partnership where Terveystalo is learning from an agile startup on harnessing AI and where we provide a platform with health data and business logics that can be applied at Etsimo.
Since you are considered to be one of the top influencers and experts in eHealth and health innovations in Finland: How should AI be used in healthcare?
I feel that AI has tremendous power. First, I believe AI has a role in how we arrive at more accurate diagnoses earlier in the process. Big data and data entered by the patients is surely changing this as we have better understanding of context and history of the patient as well. Second, AI will have a role in how we provide the actual care and support our experts in providing care. And lastly, one of the biggest application fields is diagnostics. Genomics is an area where I have a growing interest and looks like AI can do a lot in reading DNA sequences as well as help sort out diagnostics. We are continuously looking for ways to use our data for improving the care outcomes as well as patient experience.
Considering your comprehensive background in healthcare: What would healthcare look like without limitations?
In an ideal world we would be able to design a healthcare service system, where each individual’s health and wellness would be supported constantly and illnesses cured cost-effectively. I still hope that with help of technology we are able to personalize interventions and support healthier lifestyles.
On a more concrete level one of the biggest barriers seems to be the lack of integrated IT which for instance limits the use of historical health data that is accumulating from patients to different data silos. This slows down the processes tremendously when patients move between providers and we really need the data to follow each patient seamlessly.
Access to care is the largest limitation in public healthcare currently. Long lines and lack of resources can be helped by automation and by providing multi-channel services. There is a lot that can be handled remotely as we have seen with the popular Terveystalo chat.
What motivates you in (1) work and (2) life?
Challenges. I love big questions that first seem unsolvable both in work and on my free time. I like to hike mountains such as Kilimanjaro, the Himalayas and the Alps. I love tackling mountain sized challenges at work too and I believe in finding new ways of conquering them.
What is the future of healthcare?
The core of healthcare will remain the same. I don’t see that the physical core will change very soon as we still want to see an expert when we are seriously ill. However, lighter encounters are moving away from the clinic and into multi-channel services. Chat and video appointments are already in everyday use. Next, we are looking for ways to utilize AI with Etsimo.
Quality is at the core of Terveystalo’s strategy. We will continue to accumulate more and more quality data and to analyze the three dimensions of our quality triangle with bigger and better data. I vision a healthcare system where patient choices and provider compensation is strongly linked to proven and transparent quality of care.
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