Go to main content Go to search
Page updated 12.6.2023

Artificial intelligence development and health tech – Elina Kontio's research group develops innovations to make everyday life easier for ordinary people

The Health Technology Research Group offers, among other things, test bed activities in the Health Technology Laboratory. The leader of the research group became interested in health technology during the university's master's degree.

Text and photo: Siiri Welling

If Elina Kontio's childhood school had running races, it was certain that Kontio wanted to win. 

"Then I even went with the taste of blood in my mouth. That's how competitive I was", Kontio recalls.  

Kontio lived her childhood and youth in Perniö in southern Salo. One of her childhood landscapes was the village of Germundsvidja between the villages of  Strömma and Skoila. In a small village, many children and young people found the joy of doing things specifically in sports. As a child, Kontio became particularly interested in athletics, and her sports included sprinting and long jump. 

"I did well in athletics. I was even a three-district champion then. However, my sports career was interrupted during my upper secondary school studies after I injured my back", says Kontio.

After a promising start to her sports career, ending with an injury was a tough one for Kontio. On the other hand, it gave Kontio the opportunity to think about the future and what she would like to do as an adult. Kontio had always had a desire to help others, and she was also interested in medicine. That's why she ended up studying nursing at what was then Salo School of Health Care.

"After graduation, I worked for several years as a nurse at the Internal Medicine Clinic in Tyks as a rotating substitute. As a home ward, I had an intensive care unit for internal medicine, but I also worked a lot in cardiac monitoring and in the haematology department. I am very grateful for the experience and what it taught me. I got to see and experience a lot."

From nurse to doctor of health technology

However, during her early working years, Kontio became even more convinced that she would like to achieve a university-level degree. That's why she started her studies at the Open University and studied nursing science all the way to appro and education to cumu . She completed part of her studies during her first child's baby year. The hard work paid off, as the doors to master's studies opened at the Department of Nursing Sciences at the University of Turku. 

"Already during my master's studies, I combined information systems with health information. What has always interested me about technology is that it can improve people's care and make the work of professionals easier. I don't like technology because of technology, but it's a great thing if, for example, an exoskeleton improves the quality of life of a person who is unable to move", says Kontio. 

Kontio has focused more on the software side of her work. Her doctoral dissertation in 2013 presented a model for developing decision-making in the real-time treatment process of cardiac patients. According to Kontio, data collected on the treatment environment and the patient can provide an enormous amount of information that helps, for example, in planning treatment. Such data can simply be data collected from biosensors, such as blood glucose meters, combined with the history data of the entire patient's treatment record. When artificial intelligence combines data, it is possible to influence the treatment received by humans. 

Artificial intelligence in the development of healthcare

The development of technology has been hugely visible in the healthcare sector. At the beginning of the 2000s, it was not even possible to collect basic data electronically, unlike today. Device integrations were under development, which meant that information on drip devices and blood pressure, for example, still had to be entered into the information system manually. Artificial intelligence development and information systems may still have a significant impact on healthcare in the future.

"I believe that in ten years' time, we will be able to predict illness better with the help of artificial intelligence, for example. In addition, I believe that we have more devices that make life easier and that things would be more automated", Kontio thinks.

Kontio is currently researching the possibilities of utilising artificial intelligence in the Health Technology Research Group led by Kontio at Turku University of Applied Sciences. For example, the research group develops synthetic data, as genuine health data collected from patients is not openly available. Synthetic data can be used for product development for the needs of companies. Successes have been achieved, for example, in the PRIVASA project. In addition to artificial intelligence, Kontio is interested in sports technology. The research group has collaborated with the Eerikkilä Sports Institute for a long time, and the MyeWay system in Eerikkilä is currently being developed. On the other hand, the research group also aims to develop innovations that benefit ordinary people. 

"Sport Tech utilises all know-how methods just like in other health technology, but the starting point is to think of solutions with ordinary people's physical activity in mind. How can a person keep themselves in good shape and thus possibly prevent certain diseases and syndromes? How can the exercise experience be strengthened?"

Kontio's research group collaborates extensively with Turku University of Applied Sciences' Health and Wellbeing Sector. Multidisciplinary research benefits both business and academia. In particular, students gain a lot of experience in working in research groups.

"I have always wanted to develop, invent and also help others. I don't teach anymore, but in my work I still get to see the students' work up close and thus have the opportunity to help them develop into experts in their own field", says Kontio.

Get to know the research group