A new digital health service in the Finnish city of Espoo has been found to significantly reduce doctor’s workloads and help encourage patients to take more responsibility for their health.

The ‘digital self care’ system provides users with access to their own patient information together with providing authorised access to their doctor or nurse.

Jukka Kirjavainen, development director at Tieto Healthcare and Welfare, said: “Our digital self care service makes this close interaction possible without ever more phone calls and appointments.”

The digital service involves agreeing a care plan, which is set up and made available online so that care providers and patients are aware of the goals for their therapy and how they can reach them.

In addition, by linking to the information systems of hospitals and health centres, doctors can make data, such as laboratory results, accessible to the patient and then comment on the results.

Kirjavainen added: “Patients feel more in control of their disease, and they like the idea that they can contact their doctor directly without having to call or schedule an appointment.”

The service was implemented last summer to provide chronically ill patients with additional support and close interaction with their care providers without putting a strain on the service.

The Espoo system integrates an information system from Finnish company Tieto with the Espoo municipality’s citizen portal using service orientated architecture,

The evaluation of the service has found that despite only 0.4% of the municipalities 40,000 chronically ill patients using the online service so far, care providers have seen a reduction in phone calls of 2500 on a yearly calculation.

Tieto says that it now intends to extend the service to other municipalities and add new features to existing implementations, such as giving patients the opportunity to upload vital parameter or questionnaire data into the system.

Tieto are also involved in a pilot scheme with the Finnish Medical Association to include decision support tools that can help care providers to interpret medical data in the electronic patient record.