Search for content, post, videos

”Digital tools have huge potential”

Noora Mannikko

Noora Männikkö is a software designer focusing on healthcare applications. She likes working with something that can have a societal impact and she believes that digital health tools bring a new perspective to healthcare by allowing the patient to be an active participant rather than just a recipient.

Her employer, the Finnish consulting company Atostek, is active in several application areas, including healthcare and medical applications, industrial product development, and public sector ICT consulting. Noora Männikkö is focusing on the company’s own electronic patient information system and on how healthcare professionals can store it and access previously archived data. The product provides integration with the Finnish national Kanta services for healthcare professionals (digital services for the social welfare and healthcare sector).

“From a technical point of view, my main tasks are in web service and backend development. I design and also implement new features, and my job is to test compatibility with Kanta services. My job also includes communicating with authorities about technical specifications and regulations,” she says.

She is currently working fulltime with the company’s own product and business consulting is not such a big part of her job, but she can see that there is a difference.

“Working with the company’s own product allows more freedom in deciding what features are implemented, how they are implemented and how their implementation is scheduled. These things can’t be dictated by the customer so easily, although their opinions must of course be taken into account. However, healthcare is a very highly regulated field, and there are a lot of requirements and restrictions, from server information security to the user interface layout. Even if it’s your own product, you can’t do whatever you like. In some other fields the difference might be more significant.”

A day at work

On a normal day, Noora only has a few meetings or other scheduled appointments, and for the rest of the day can focus on the actual development work. She usually has some implementation tasks in progress, such as coding or testing, but she also spends a lot of time in gathering information from different sources and specifications, and designing new features based on these.

“Roughly half of my working hours go to all sorts of planning and only the other half to actual implementation. Right now I’m working on a larger set of new features on social services information. Social services is a new field for all of us in our team, so this has been quite challenging,” she says.

The best part of her job, she says, is that she gets to work on things that actually help others in their jobs or daily lives.

“I get to solve real-life problems and provide new or improved tools for others to use. I like the idea that what I do actually makes a difference.”

“I get to solve real-life problems and provide new or improved tools for others to use. I like the idea that what I do actually makes a difference.”

The most challenging part is that developing good software is quite difficult if you understand nothing about the field or what the end user actually wants to do with the software.

“Like most software developers working in this field, I don’t have a degree or formal training in healthcare or medicine, so sometimes it takes some effort to get a grip of the domain terminology when gathering requirements. Many problems and tasks start to seem clear only when I have already worked on them for a good while. It takes time to gain experience and to get familiar with the field.”

How do you interact with colleagues in solving different problems or tasks?

“For larger problems or new features, we sometimes arrange a scheduled meeting with a fixed agenda, where we discuss the problem in question and try to find good solutions for it, but most of the time the interaction is much more spontaneous and informal. Our team works physically in the same office, so it’s very easy to just ask for help or a second opinion at any time. On a normal day, there are several of these unplanned conversations. I think that this kind of easy and open communication really helps in finding the best solutions and bringing together the best ideas from different team members.”

Noora also states that even a relatively small consulting company can have several different kinds of projects with different kinds of technologies and practices.

“It allows employees to try different kind of projects and have variety in their jobs within the same company.”

There is great potential with health data

Noora Männikkö studied information technology at Tampere University of Technology and has a Master of Science degree.

“I majored in software systems for my Bachelor’s degree and software engineering for my Master’s degree, so my studies focused very much on software development.”

She ended up in the field of digital health by coincidence.

“Digital health technologies can really bring healthcare to the next level. I like working with something that can have a societal impact.”

“However, now that I have worked in this field for a few years, I find it interesting and wish to continue working with it. Healthcare is a part of almost everyone’s life in some way, and I see a huge potential in using digital tools with it. Digital health technologies can really bring healthcare to the next level. I like working with something that can have a societal impact.”

Digital health brings a new perspective to healthcare by allowing the patient to be an active participant rather than just a target recipient, she says. Normal people will have more possibilities to produce health information about themselves with different kinds of applications and wearable devices.

“People can also use their own health information more easily and efficiently. This allows a more open dialogue with the patient and the healthcare professionals. I think there is great potential in having more health data, but also in using it in new ways.”

Finland has taken big steps in managing patient information electronically, she continues.

“There is still work to be done in how all information gathered is used in the best possible way, but the national electronic archives are a good start. Finnish companies have also produced some promising innovations, such as an intelligent surgical knife and an intelligent injection needle,” Noora says.

Photo of Noora Männikkö: Atostek

Leave a Reply