The best occupational health care in the world is a €24 billion issue for Finland

Finnish occupational health care has been built up over the years by employers and employees, who also finance it almost entirely (employers about 80%, employees 20%). Occupational health care covers more than 1.9 million Finns of working age, whose health and fitness for work are crucial to the success of Finland as a whole, to its competitiveness and to the maintenance of a welfare society. Occupational health is an absolutely central part of our health care system; in addition to its specific role in balancing the growing burden of public health care, it does so in an internationally unique way and with excellent results.

Ville Iho

Maintaining work ability is one of the core tasks of occupational health. On average, a worker's sick day costs society €370 and this amount is rising as the dependency ratio deteriorates and the burden of maintaining the welfare state falls on a dwindling number of working-age people. Today, the total cost of lost labour is around €24 billion a year.

Work capacity = prevention + health care together

Occupational health combines preventive measures to support workers and organisations with effective disease management processes. Occupational health generates a wealth of information, both medical and organisational, which can be processed to identify, anticipate and intervene in work-related risks on the basis of risk. Occupational health professionals literally create health from knowledge. Alongside prevention, effective disease management processes ensure that patients have rapid access to treatment, efficient and consistent care pathways and return to work as quickly as possible. At Terveystalo, more than 10,000 professionals from different medical specialties work alongside occupational health specialists, which means that multidisciplinary cooperation shines and customers do not get bounced around.

Examples of a seamless chain of preventive work and disease management are the models built around mental health support or musculoskeletal disorders. Our analysis based on extensive data shows that sickness absence due to mental health issues was reduced by more than 40% when employees received low-threshold support and access to brief psychotherapy as part of their occupational health. Rapid rehabilitation after musculoskeletal accidents and operations is achieved through a seamless chain of care from first appointment to rehabilitation, and return to work is supported by applied work models implemented in partnership between occupational health professionals and the organisation. The worker is supported at every stage and the circle that started with a challenge is closed. Even in simpler sickness appointments, occupational health has been a pioneer in bringing more streamlined practices to its clients: last year, a third of occupational health appointments were conducted through remote channels, saving everyone time.

Occupational health responds to the changing world of work and needs more effort

One of the clearest indicators of health is the ability to work. The importance of work for health is also increasingly recognised. The world of work is changing and occupational health is changing with it: hybrid work, digitalisation, social and economic uncertainty, ageing and the diversity of work communities are just some examples. At the same time, the role and responsibility of occupational health at the interface between work communities and health is growing. Businesses, employees, occupational health providers and, for example, occupational pension providers have a converging interest in improving work capacity.

Occupational health is already an excellent part of health care and should be given even more attention in the coming years. At Terveystalo, we are constantly investing in better ways to support the health of Finns and are ready to take on increasing responsibility, especially for the working-age population, alongside public health care. The 24 billion cost of lost working days every year can be reduced by investing more in occupational health in a way that benefits employees, employers and society. These investments matter when we consider Finland's and Finns' competitiveness, well-being and ability to create new things. Prosperity will continue to need its creators.

Ville Iho
Ville Iho

Ville Iho is the CEO of Terveystalo, a company that is driven by ambitious goals and extremely tough professionals around him. In his spare time, his goal is to be the best grandfather in the world in time.

Read more blogs

Terveystalon Digitaalisten palveluiden johtaja Ilari Richardt Blog

Here are the digital trends in healthcare 2024

Artificial intelligence, health assistants, preventive care and personalised medicine - the digital trends in healthcare in 2024 will focus on how we can modernise healthcare and tackle its deepest problems.

Terveystalon Digiylilääkäri Tuomo Oikarainen Terveystalon vastaanottohuoneessa Blog

AI is coming - we are ready

I argue that AI will do some of the work of a doctor in the near future. But I don't yet know what those jobs will be exactly.

Jukka Pitkänen Terveystalo Blog

What will occupational health look like in 2030?

Working life is in transition. Many forces challenge both employers and the workforce at the same time. Equally, occupational health must be actively developed in the direction of the future we wish for, so that we don't just drift along the flow.

Janina Achrén Blog

Musculoskeletal disorders absenteeism down 13% in 2022 - What finally made the ship turn around?

I remember well a drawing I made in my notebook during my specialisation. I drew a stick figure running along the line; a stick occupational physiotherapist. The line I drew depicted the transformation of occupational health and working life over the last couple of hundred years; from the industrial revolution, the early days of occupational health and factory doctors, to the Occupational Health Act of the 21st century and the large teams of occupational health specialists. While occupational health had developed by leaps and bounds along the way, our working lives and environments had changed even more rapidly. Despite the leaps and bounds, the stick occupational physiotherapist was still constantly one step behind, often only involved when the problem had already arisen. I wrote the question under my drawing; when will occupational health get to the point where we walk alongside the workplace and see what is coming, so we can prevent it? My stick occupational physiotherapist had to wait a good decade for that answer...

Eveliina Holmgren Blog

Successful labour migration requires everyone's contribution

The Finnish government has set a target to double the amount of labour immigration by 2030. This means that the aim is to attract around 50 000 workers from abroad to Finland over the next seven years. After that, it is hoped that around 10 000 people a year will move to Finland for work. As immigration for work increases, it is important to ask what this means for everyday work and what changes the diversity of the workforce will require of managers.

Ilari Richardt Blog

Health information is needed for successful work ability management, but what is health information and how should it be protected in an organization?

The most important tasks of occupational health are the prevention of illnesses and maintaining work ability. This can be achieved when information about the health of the staff is available. However, information always goes hand in hand with data protection.