Blog: Finnish quality standard for HEMS

Tiina Koutajoki Blog, Uncategorized

The aim of HEMS in Finland is to ensure that all citizens receive prehospital physician-level care on an equivalent basis and in a coherent way. FinnHEMS Ltd, the national administrative unit for Helicopter Emergency Medical Services, has been given with funding the duty of actively and resolutely promoting the achievement of coherent practice and quality. To this end, the FinnHEMS board of directors entrusted to FinnHEMS Research and Development Unit the task of coordinating the drafting of a national quality standard for HEMS. This document outlines quality standards for HEMS in Organisation and Management, Medical Operations and Continuing Medical Airworthiness. For aviation the quality standards have been defined in the FinnHEMS Operator Standard.

The working group begun its work in June 2015.

Working together is the key

I started working at the Research and Development Unit in August 2015 and I’ve been involved in the project ever since. An excellent working group (the responsible physicians of all our HEMS bases except for Rovaniemi base, not physician-staffed, the responsible paramedic, myself and the Head of Research of our R&D Unit Ilkka Virkkunen) played the vital role but efficient project management has proven to be essential in this endeavour, too.

The responsible physicians have been in charge of drafting the content of the standard and the role of our Unit has been to coordinate and facilitate the work. It has been a great pleasure to work with such skilled and motivated people, who do their workwith great dedication. Members of the working group have contributed to this project all around Finland in addition to their own jobs. That’s why it is especially important that the project has been in the hands of someone who documents, plans, gives instructions, makes schedules and makes sure that all members of the working group know where we are at – and where we are heading to. That has been my role: I’ve made sure that things are held together and that the project progresses according to plans.

Lots of instructive work

Drafting a national quality standard takes a lot of work and effort when there are six bases and hospital districts each with their own culture. It has taken countless hours to achieve a good outcome: preparation, writing, negotiation, refinement, comment rounds, negotiation and refinement – again and again. In addition to official guidelines, the standard is very much based on Best Practice –thinking. The working group has discussed the ways things are done on different bases and tried to find the best ones. However, such a demanding task can’t be completed without compromises.

The process has been instructive to all since the standard is based on thorough reflection and discussion on all aspects of HEMS. To me especially so, as I have no clinical nor operational experience in HEMS. On the other hand, I think it has been beneficial to the project to have someone in the working group looking at things from a different perspective. My educational background being in linguistics, I’ve also helped formulating things so that the text is logic and clear. I believe this has a great impact on the practical implementation of the standard.

I’m extremely proud of the working group and happy to see that the project is in its final stages, with administrational approvals and implementation left. This project shows how far cooperation can get us: it is indeed possible to develop services and improve quality on a national level when there is common will and goals. I truly hope that the standard will also be implemented proficiently and that it genuinely improves the quality of HEMS all over the country.


The author Anna Olkinuora works as Project Manager at FinnHEMS Research and Development Unit.




FinnHEMS blog is written by different people who all in their own job ensure that HEMS units in Finland operate every day of the year and that those in need of help receive high quality care.