In our ever-evolving healthcare landscape, all players in the field have to focus on optimizing and enhancing their functions. Growing access to diverse real-world data sources has enabled the development of novel approaches to support healthcare decision-making. With unique data sources and top-level professionals, Finland has all the key resources to set a new course for medical data science—and to improve patient care both locally and globally.
Real-world data – what and why?
Real-world data (RWD) refers to information on health care that is captured in a natural and uncontrolled setting outside traditional randomized clinical trials (RCTs), which makes it a realistic reflection of everyday patient care and treatment practices. RWD can be collected from multiple sources including electronic health records (EHRs), claims and billing data, product and disease registries, as well as through personal devices and health applications. Further aggregation and analysis of RWD turns it into the more valuable real-world evidence (RWE).
RWE has great potential to answer the wealth of essential questions that healthcare players are facing every day. In the pharma industry, the importance of data collected from real-world clinical settings in bridging the gap between controlled clinical trials and everyday clinical practice is now widely acknowledged. The endless number of RWE applications can be utilized throughout the product life cycle to support various functions. RWE can be used to evaluate the impact of new treatments or to follow-up patients in long-term and identify those patient groups who benefit most from the treatment. Reporting of infrequent safety signals and challenges in treatment adherence are additional uses of RWE – just to name a few.
In addition to pharma industry, RWE can be widely utilized in health care assessment and decision-making. RWE provides a highly valuable tool for evaluating the burden of disease or for cost-effectiveness analysis. Data collected from real-world settings can reveal unmet needs in current clinical practices and foster the development of new tools for disease diagnostics and follow-up.
Finland is a top choice for real-world data related studies
However, analysis of often fragmented data, collected from a variety of sources, presents many challenges. Correct interpretation of the data, turning of RWD into solid evidence, requires top-level expertise from multiple disciplines. The combination of several key assets makes Finland one of the world´s best ecosystems for conducting high-quality real-world studies:
- Long-standing tradition in efficient healthcare. Finland is a model country for equal, top-quality healthcare with all healthcare providers following the consistent guidelines.
- Comprehensive digital healthcare registries and databases. The health data of every Finnish citizen, from birth to death, can be traced in the national health registers. The National Archive of Health Information is one of the most comprehensive digital systems of its kind globally.
- A unique collection of biobanks. Finland has a long tradition of collecting samples in biobanks and vast amounts of samples are currently stored in 10 public biobanks. The samples are available for all researchers who have appropriate professional and management capacities and a sound research plan.The Finngen research project, launched in Finland in the autumn of 2017, is a unique study that combines genome information with digital health care data and brings together the nationwide network of Finnish biobanks.
- Long expertise in biomedical research and top professionals in the field. Decades of investments into high-quality research, development, and education has made Finland one of the leading countries in biomedical research and health tech innovations.
- Strong expertise in information and communication technology (ICT) and data-analysis. With broad expertise in ICT and mobile technology and a vibrant startup community, Finland provides unrivalled opportunities for successful and efficient data collection and management.
Build a strategy for Finnish real-world data
Building a comprehensive RWE strategy is becoming a necessity for life science companies. In the jungle of RWD options available today, we want to highlight some important things to consider when planning your RWD study and making the most of Finnish real-world data:
- Set up the right team. For a successful real-world study, all steps of the study should be carried out by professionals in the field. The team should also have a strategic understanding of data implementation.
- Define the research question. Carefully defining the question that needs to be answered is a critical step in launching an RWE project. Be systematic and specific. Set up clear goals and approaches.
- Ponder the data needed and select data sources. Select the best available data sources and design solid and systematic methods for data collection.
- Design data analysis and interpret the results. Choose sound methodologies for the analysis.
- Implement data to meaningful activities. Possibly the most demanding task in running an RWE study, but a crucial step in generating value for your organization. Think strategically and beyond traditional approaches to ensure maximum value of the data.
Much is learned by doing. Finland provides excellent opportunities for successful real-world studies, but first-hand experience generates an intimate understanding of the value of data for your organization.