Posted by: ihfgeneva | September 11, 2013

Interview of Risto Miettunen

Risto MiettunenInterview of Risto Miettunen, Finland, IHF  Governing Council Member

in ACHE’s International Newsletter

Q: Tell us briefly about your background in healthcare management.
A: I transitioned to healthcare management after nearly two decades in European and global medical engineering and pharmaceutical industries as vice president of Siemens Medical Solutions and president of Orion Pharma, a Finland-based global business. I was trained as a medical doctor and radiologist with my PhD on medical physics in the 1980s, and I published 12 articles in international medical journals as author or co-author. I made an early decision to focus solely on management and left clinical practice years ago.

Throughout my healthcare management career, I’ve lived and worked in Germany and Switzerland in addition to my home country of Finland—basically a very international business environment. So, it was only natural for me to join ACHE as a member of the international community. Recently I was also elected to the Governing Council of the International Hospital Federation as a representative of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

Q: How did you arrive at your current position?
A: This was a career advancement opportunity I was motivated to take, given my interest and experience in general management. My training as a physician also certainly played a role in focusing on healthcare.

Q: What are your primary job responsibilities?
A: As CEO, I am responsible for the overall management of the hospital district, reporting to the board of directors (nominated by local municipalities) and the University of Eastern Finland. I am in charge of the preparation and implementation of strategies approved by the board, ensuring quality care and service delivery, education and research. Kuopio University Hospital is the academic and acute-tertiary level medical center for eastern Finland, covering a population of 850,000. But we also provide secondary services, and to some extent, localized primary services for the region.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in your current position?
A: The Finnish total cost of healthcare as a percentage of GDP is 9 percent, which compares below the OECD average but is still a serious issue due to a rising trend. Although Finland’s economy still has an AAA credit rating, the current euro crisis has its implications on public spending. My challenge is to find an optimal balance between the financial realities and the cost of good quality service, research and education.

Q: What is the biggest reward?
A: Satisfied patients, motivated staff and fulfilling the requirements for good quality care are rewards obtained through setting and reaching goals for the organization. We have a certified quality system according to ISO 9001 (quality management system requirements from the International Organization for Standardization), and we have been the most productive university hospital in Finland many years in a row.

Q: Briefly describe the overall healthcare atmosphere in the country in which you work.
A: Cost containment is an issue. The Finnish healthcare system is highly decentralized under the responsibility of municipalities and joint authorities. There will be a structural reform in the coming years, which currently is subject to highly political debate. The funding is mostly public, but there is a complementing private sector especially in occupational health and some other services.

Q: How do you see the field of healthcare management changing in the next five years?
A: I believe the system is basically going to move from standalone hospitals into integrated service networks. This will include both specialization on one side and a broader distribution of localized services at the same time. The focus of management is going to shift towards the patient.

Q: What advice can you offer for other international members?
A: Be active and share information and experience. Most of the issues we are dealing with are similar in all parts of the world that unites us and gives a broad common base for discussion.

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