Tarja Heponiemi

We use high-quality scientific research to find solutions that help keep everyone engaged in today’s increasingly digitalised society

Tarja Heponiemi

Research Professor at THL

What are you currently working on within the DigiIN project?

I am the leader of the DigiIN consortium and the project leader of one of its sub-projects.
Supporting the new digital service and work culture among professionals and organisations

What are the main objectives of the DigiIN project?

To use high-quality scientific research to find solutions that help keep everyone engaged in today’s increasingly digitalised society. The objective of the project is to ensure that no one falls through the service net because of the digital nature of the services.
We are also seeking to find ways to shape a digital service and work culture that supports meaningful work for health and social care professionals.

What are the key topics for your focus area?

One of the topics we are currently studying is the change in the service and work culture brought about by digitalisation and digital management of health and social care. We are also studying factors that are related to areas such as the digital competence of health and social care personnel, documentation errors, stress related to information systems and burnout.
In addition, we have been mapping out the different types of intervention methods used to improve the digital competence of health and social care personnel.

How is the research done and how are the answers found?

We use a diverse range of methods. We have used individual and group interviews, questionnaire surveys and various methods suited to carrying out reviews.
To get answers from the data, we use a variety of statistical and content analyses.

What results have been obtained?

We have observed, for example, that the poor usability of information systems is a burden for nurses and that this is age-independent issue, meaning that it did not vary between different age groups.
However, young nurses in particular are more prone to making cognitive failures (such as difficulties in listening to instructions or remembering passwords) if the usability of the information systems was poor, while this correlation was not observed among older nurses.
It would therefore appear that if the systems do not support the work sufficiently well, young nurses in particular may feel the mental strain. This may be due to the fact that the overall work management skills of young people are not yet at the level of more experienced nurses.

How do you see the future of digital services?

Especially during the COVID-19 epidemic, digital services have increased and will probably continue to increase in the future, but they cannot completely replace face-to-face meetings, and there are services that will always require face-to-face contact. In addition, there are always particular persons and groups for whom digital services cannot replace traditional services.

Why are digital services important?

They are important for many reasons, as they offer many advantages. They are particularly relevant during the current epidemic, as they can help to reduce physical contact between people.
Is there a topic or activity that you think cannot or should not be ‘digitalised?
There are many services that are difficult to digitalise and user groups that cannot use digital services. Many people believe that face-to-face encounters cannot be replaced and that it is not easy to present their own matters unless the meeting is face-to-face.
Our research has found, for example, that psychiatry is an area where there is a need for face-to-face meetings. This is just one example, of course; there are many others as well.

What digital service do you use yourself (in your work or in your leisure time) and could recommend to others?

At the moment, I use Teams a lot for my work (and to some extent also in leisure time). It has mostly worked well and I can recommend it.

Have you had problems with any of the digital services you are using – how did you solve the problem or how would you like to develop the service?

It often bothers me when a service which used to take just a couple of minutes on the phone now requires a lot of searching through websites for the right page and the right form. Sometimes it feels that a lot of time goes into this.
In other words, I would like more clarity and ease of use, and a well-functioning search option is also important.

What do you do when you want to take a break from your job?

I get some exercise, for example by going for a quick walk outside or walking up and down the stairs at my workplace. Or during those times before COVID-19 when we were still at workplace, I went for a coffee with my work colleagues.