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AI helped the Finnish Medical Association shape the basic principles of healthcare

By Hanna Liimatainen on Feb 17, 2020 3:21:04 PM , updated on Apr 14, 2021

Doctors’ future guidelines on the basic principles of healthcare will be shaped through artificial intelligence. The Finnish Medical Association used the Howspace digital platform for crowdsourcing among its members.

“Without Howspace, the extensive material would have been a problem,” says Heikki Pärnänen, Policy Director at the Finnish Medical Association.

When the Finnish Medical Association (FMA) started to prepare its basic principles of healthcare in late 2018, it wanted to involve all members in discussing how to make healthcare even more effective in the future. The FMA has more than 26,000 members.

“We wanted a practical tool that would encourage and inspire doctors to actively discuss healthcare needs. The doctors know best what is going on in their field, and the Howspace digital platform made it possible to involve people in extensive discussions,” says Heikki Pärnänen, Policy Director at the FMA.

Before the update, the most recent FMA healthcare guidelines were 25 years old. The recent discussions enabled doctors to share their views on the best ways to ensure patient autonomy and access to treatment and to implement evidence-based treatment practices, for example.

“We set out to create something of a healthcare catechism, with commandments and their meanings,” says Pärnänen.

Invitations to more than 20,000 doctors

Pärnänen appreciates the convenience of the Howspace digital platform, which enables dialogue and facilitation when it best suits the participants, even among large groups.

“Previously, healthcare guidelines were prepared by small groups of experts. Now we were able to simultaneously invite more than 20,000 doctors from different parts of Finland,” Pärnänen explains.

The form in which the doctors provided feedback came as a surprise.

“We were expecting to see lively chat discussions and lists of observations on the digital platform. Instead, we received more than 600 pages of text, including complete articles,” says Pärnänen.

Reviewing that much text would have taken months.

The word cloud feature on Howspace lacked the capacity to process the extensive material, so an artificial intelligence clustering feature was developed for Howspace to collect similar sentences and topics from the texts. This made it possible to identify common ideas related to healthcare guidelines from the huge amount of text.

“Without this new tool, we would have been in serious trouble. Artificial intelligence helped us review the text mass and streamlined our work,” says Pärnänen.

Further processing also became easier.

“Artificial intelligence enabled us to quickly proceed to further processing. We prepared poll questions and selected 50 to 60 statements, ideas and thoughts on which to base the new guidelines. The doctors were asked to vote to narrow this to some twenty topics for further discussion,” Pärnänen explains.

Three polls were organized on the Howspace platform at two-week intervals to collect the doctors’ votes. Between the polls, the work continued. The doctors were able to participate in processing the topics that they felt were most relevant to their practices.

Real opportunities to shape your own work

The form of the discussion on the new healthcare guidelines may have come as a surprise to the FMA, but there were no surprises in terms of content.

“The issues and policies that provoked discussion among the doctors were quite similar to what they had been before. As a result, we were readily able to update our guidelines from a quarter of a century ago,” says Pärnänen.

In the future, the Howspace digital platform will be used as a discussion platform for working groups with limited participation and as a tool that offers help with preparatory work and meeting practices.

“The platform is very convenient. We want all of our members to participate in our activities, not just those in a position of trust and the members of our preparatory bodies. Everyone will be able to truly have an impact on decision-making and their medical practices.”

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