The HUOLETI service's story began during last year's Professional Summer School.
The Professional Summer School summer studies module a joint effort by Haaga-Helia, Laurea and Metropolia was held for the first time last summer. Its themes were service innovations that promote well-being and health. One of the ideas that sprung from the Professional Summer School was the HUOLETI mobile application, which has proceeded at a quick pace from an idea to a start-up.
Ways to simplify daily life for people diagnosed with cancer
Carita Savin, a student in the Master's Degree Programme in Service Innovation and Design, who participated in the Professional Summer School was the mastermind behind the idea for HUOLETI. She, together with other members of her team, developed a service that would simplify life for people diagnosed with cancer.
The stories shared by cancer patients, their family members and health care professionals with the Kertomalla paranee project on daily life with a serious illness were the premise for the concept. These stories were the motivation for creating a peer support application.
After completing the summer study module, Ms Savin, who has worked for a long time in the ICT sector, continued to develop the idea. She presented it to her friend and long-time colleague Maria Lipsonen, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. The duo proceeded with the concept quickly and, in November, the application, which was named HUOLETI was selected as one of the top three ideas in the Kertomalla paranee project's idea competition.
- My daughter has type 1 diabetes, and years ago I was one of the founding members of a peer support group in Tampere. This experience helped me understand that there was a demand for this type of electronic service, explains Maria Lipsonen, who has worked for years in the health technologies sector.
- I, in turn, was able to combine my experience in the ICT sector with my expertise in service design, and saw how a functional service could be created with simple technical solutions. At the moment, we are assessing the right partners with whom we could move the service forward, Carita Savin continues.
User-centred product development
Ms Lipsonen and Ms Savin aim to develop the service in Finland in close cooperation with its users. They feel that Finland is a suitably safe environment in which to adopt the service, learn about it and develop it on the basis of feedback.
- After it has been adopted, our objective is to gain entry to the US markets and to create a strong brand there, Carita Savin says
- This will not be easy, which is why we want to find the right partners to facilitate entry to the US markets. Tekes will also help us in our internationalisation efforts.
Carita Savin and Maria Lipsonen have developed the HUOLETI service in Finland in close cooperation with e.g. patient organisations. In February, the two aim to begin the service's first round of piloting with users.
- Thus far, we have had a very easy time testing and developing the service with users. HUOLETI has been received very enthusiastically in all the places where we have showcased it, Ms Lipsonen states.
- During this first phase, we have focused on cancer patients, but our objective is to scale the service for use by any person with a serious illness or for use by the aged.
"Networks of fundamental importance"
At its start, the HUOLETI team received assistance from experts from Laurea and the Professional Summer School. They helped the two also to find a contact person at Tekes.
Tampere natives Carita and Maria have also found a great deal of support in HealthHub, a community for health technologies start-ups, as well as in FinnMed's extensive network.
- For example, it is difficult to arrange a meeting with a city or hospital district, if you do not know the correct contact persons. FinnMed's network proved very valuable in this respect, Carita and Maria explain.
- Health care sector start-ups are all-in-all wonderful at cheering each other on. We do not view each other as competitors in the HealthHub, but help one another succeed.
The most important lesson Ms Lipsonen and Ms Savin have learned as start-up entrepreneurs thus far has been the importance of networking. No matter what your sector or industry, its worthwhile to be courageous in networking and find places where you can meet other start-ups and operators in the same sector.
- It is also worthwhile to ask about others' experiences, because there is a lot to be learned from these; what path another start-up's journey has taken, and who they have worked in cooperation with, Carita Savin advises.
- It is our experience that people are very generous in sharing their experiences, if you just make the effort to ask.
One unexpected door that opened to the HUOLETI team through networking has been cooperation with IBM and their Watson Health AI.
- The partnership with IBM will no doubt bring about many new opportunities for developing our service. We can also offer a thesis project related to the Watson Health AI to a student who is interested in developing new solutions, Carita concludes.
The Professional Summer School summer studies module by Haaga-Helia, Laurea and Metropolia will be held again this summer. Read more here.