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HealthFinland - Health Information on the Semantic Web

This page describes the research and prototype development of the semantic portal HealthFinland (TerveSuomi in Finnish). The system has been deployed in 2009 and is maintained by the National Institute for Health and Welfare at www.tervesuomi.fi.

Problems of Finding and Publishing Health Information

Health information is one of the most frequently searched content type on the web. However, a citizen searching for health information faces many challenges:

  • The information is often published at organization-centric websites, requiring prior knowledge of the organizations involved.
  • After finding a piece of interesting information, it is often tedious and difficult to find related relevant web resources.
  • Outdated and broken links are common.
  • Satisfying an end-user's information need often requires aggregation of content from several information providers.
  • The quality and trustworthiness of information varies. In many cases it is difficult know whether a content is based on scientific results or layman opinions and rumors, or whether it is motivated by commercial interests.
  • Research organizations that focus on scientific issues cannot necessarily communicate the results effectively to ordinarily citizens.

From the viewpoint of the health organizations, creating health information to citizens is also problematic in many ways:

  • Several organizations locally create overlapping content, which is a waste of time and money on a global level, and is confusing to the end user.
  • Content in web sites is usually minimally annotated for the purpose of presenting it on a particular site and for the particular purpose of the publisher. This makes it difficult and expensive for other organizations to re-use content across portals even if the portal owners were willing to do this.
  • Maintaining links up-to-date is very costly and tedious, especially when dealing with links to external sites to which the maintainer and the content management system has no control.

A Solution: Semantic Publication System HealthFinland

HealthFinland (TerveSuomi in Finnish) is a semantic publication system whose goal is provide a new kind of solution approach to these problems on a national Finnish level. The system consists of three main components:

  • Metadata, ontology, and service infrastructure. The system is based on domain independent W3C semantic web recommendations, a domain-specific metadata schema (Dublin Core application), and a set of ontologies and services provided within the National Ontology Service ONKI.
  • Semantic content creation process. A content creation and harvesting system has been implemented for producing semantically annotated contents, based on the shared metadata model and ontologies.
  • Semantic portal HealthFinland (TerveSuomi) and its services. The material is published via a semantic portal that creates a single national entry-point for health information, health promotion and health-related news. The information is collected from a diverse group of sources including expert organizations, governmental institutes and non-govermental organizations. A quality control process ensures that all information published through the portal is accessible, easy to understand, relevant to the topic, and factually correct.

    HealthFinland links and aggregates contents together automatically using semantic web technologies, based on shared ontologies (YSO, MeSH, TESA) and reasoning. The results are provided for the citizens from viewpoints that are natural and relevant to them. These viewpoints are often different e.g. from the medical ontological classifications that are used for indexing the data accurately from the experts' viewpoint.

    HealthFinland can be used by not only humans but by machines, too, using semantic widgets and AJAX for creating mash-up applications. This idea is analogous to using Google Maps services in external applications.

More detailed presentations of the system can be found in the publications below.

The Portal Prototype

The public HealthFinland portal prototype was published on Oct 12, 2008, see the SeCo news for more details.

The portal user interface is based on a view-based faceted browsing paradigm applied to suit the domain of health information. A demonstration video (8.6 MB, Flash required) is available. The user interface is available in Finnish, Swedish, and English, but most content is written in Finnish without translations.

An example of using a semantic HealthFinland widget can be found on this page. The section "Nuoret ja terveys" (young people and health), with its recommendation links to health materials particularly for young people, is produced dynamically and automatically by a semantic HealthFinland widget connected to the portal. The widget on the HTML page is a simple line of Javascript code. This example page is from the covernmental Suomi.fi portal, where the dublicate work, on a national level, of producing health links for young people could now be eliminated by outsourcing the service to HealthFinland.

Development Organizations

The work on creating and maintaining HeathFinland on a national level is coordinated by the National Public Health Institute (Kansanterveyslaitos). See more information in English, in Finnish and in Swedish.

The prototype of the semantic publication system HealthFinland was developed and implemented by the SeCo group as a part of the national FinnONTO project.

Publications about HealthFinland


Eero Hyvönen: Sammon taontaa semanttisessa webissä (Forging Sampos on the Semantic Web). Tekniikan Waiheita, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 87-105, Tekniikan Historian Seura ry, July, 2021. bib pdf link


Osma Suominen, Eero Hyvönen, Kim Viljanen and Eija Hukka: HealthFinland-a National Semantic Publishing Network and Portal for Health Information. Journal of Web Semantics, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 287-297, Dec, 2009. bib pdf
Providing citizens with reliable, up-to-date and individually relevant health information on the web is done by governmental, non-governmental, business and other organizations. Currently the information is published with little co-ordination and co-operation between the publishers. For publishers, this means duplicated work and costs due to publishing same information twice on many websites. Also maintaining links between websites requires work. From the citizens point of view, finding content is difficult due to e.g. differences in layman’s vocabularies compared to medical terminology and difficulties in aggregating information from several sites. To solve these problems, we propose as a solution a national scale semantic publishing system HealthFinland which consists of a 1) a centralized content infrastructure of health ontologies and services with tools, 2) a distributed semantic content creation channel based on several health organizations, and 3) an intelligent semantic portal aggregating and presenting the contents from intuitive and health promoting end-user perspectives for human users as well as for other web sites and portals.
Osma Suominen, Kim Viljanen and Eero Hyvönen: TerveSuomi-portaalin metatietomäärittely (HealthFinland portal metadata specification). Jun 18, 2009. bib pdf


Osma Suominen, Eero Hyvönen, Kim Viljanen, Eija Hukka: HealthFinland - A National Publication System for Semantic Health Information. Semantic Computing Research Group, Helsinki University of Technology and University of Helsinki, Sept 29, 2008. bib pdf
Eero Hyvönen, Kim Viljanen, Osma Suominen, Eija Hukka: HealthFinland - Publishing Health Promotion Information on the Semantic Web. Proceedings of DrMED 2008: International Workshop on Describing Medical Web Resources. The 21st International Congress on the European Federation for Medical Informatics (MIE 2008), Göteborg, Sweden, May, 2008. bib pdf
Osma Suominen: Käyttäjäkeskeinen moninäkymähaku semanttisessa portaalissa. MSc Thesis, University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science, February, 2008. bib pdf
Tiedonhakuun webissä on kehitetty sanahaun lisäksi rikkaampia tiedonhaku- ja selausmenetelmiä, jotka mahdollistavat tutkivan tiedonhaun. Niistä on hyötyä silloin, kun käyttäjä ei etukäteen tiedä täsmälleen, mitä hän on etsimässä. Yksi tällainen hakukäyttöliittymätyyppi on moninäkymähaku, jossa haun kohteena oleva tietosisältö luokitellaan moniulotteiseksi avaruudeksi fasettiluokituksen periaattein. Käyttöliittymä mahdollistaa aineiston haun ja selaamisen minkä tahansa ulottuvuuden tai niiden yhdistelmän suhteen. Moninäkymähaun kehitys lähti liikkeelle käyttöliittymätutkimuksen piiristä. Moninäkymähakuun perustuvia käyttöliittymiä käytettiin myöhemmin semanttisen webin sovelluksissa ja portaaleissa, joissa kuitenkaan ei samassa määrin huomioitu käyttäjiä suunnitteluprosessin aikana. Tutkielmassa käyttäjäkeskeisiä suunnittelu- ja tiedonjäsennysmenetelmiä sovellettiin terveysaiheista materiaalia sisältävän tervesuomi.fi-portaalin suunnitteluun sekä toteutettiin moninäkymähakua käyttävä portaalin prototyyppi semanttisen webin teknologioiden avulla. Portaalin informaatioarkkitehtuuri suunniteltiin korttienjärjestämismenetelmän avulla ja sen käyttöliittymä rakennettiin käyttäjäkeskeisellä suunnittelu- ja arviointiprosessilla. Tulosten arviointi osoittaa, että käyttäjäkeskeisistä menetelmistä oli merkittävää hyötyä portaalin suunnittelussa. Valmiin prototyypin käytettävyyden arviointi osoitti, että portaalin käytettävyys on käyttäjäkeskeisten suunnittelu- ja arviointimenetelmien ansiosta saatu hyvälle tasolle. Arviointi myös paljasti portaalin aineistoissa, käyttöliittymässä ja tiedon jäsennystavassa ongelmia, joihin terveysportaalin jatkokehityksessä voidaan puuttua.


Eero Hyvönen, Kim Viljanen and Osma Suominen: HealthFinland - Finnish Health Information on the Semantic Web. Proceedings of the 6th International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC 2007), Busan , Korea, Springer-Verlag, Nov, 2007. bib pdf
This paper shows how semantic web techniques can be applied to solving problems of distributed content creation, discovery, linking, aggregation, and reuse in health information portals, both from end-users and content publishers viewpoints. As a case study, the national semantic health portal \HF\ is presented. It provides citizens with intelligent searching and browsing services to reliable and up-to-date health information created by various health organizations in Finland. The system is based on a shared semantic metadata schema, ontologies, and ontology services. The content includes metadata about thousands of web documents such as web pages, articles, reports, campaign information, news, services, and other information related to health.
Eero Hyvönen, Kim Viljanen, Osma Suominen and Eija Hukka: HealthFinland - Publishing Health Promotion Information on the Semantic Web. International Journal of Health Care Engineering, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 325, oct, 2007. Abstract of a longer paper. bib
Osma Suominen, Kim Viljanen and Eero Hyvönen: User-centric Faceted Search for Semantic Portals. Proceedings of the European Semantic Web Conference ESWC 2007, Innsbruck, Austria, Springer, June 4-5, 2007. bib pdf
Osma Suominen, Kim Viljanen and Eero Hyvönen: Semantic Faceted Search in a Citizens Health Portal. Demo track at the European Semantic Web Conference ESWC 2007, Innsbruck, Austria, June 4-5, 2007. bib pdf
Osma Suominen, Kim Viljanen, Eero Hyvönen, Markus Holi and Petri Lindgren: TerveSuomi.fi:n metatietomäärittely (TerveSuomi.fi metadata specification). Jan 26, 2007. bib pdf


Markus Holi, Petri Lindgren, Osma Suominen, Kim Viljanen and Eero Hyvönen: TerveSuomi.fi - A Semantic Health Portal for Citizens. July 17, 2006. Poster paper, 1st Asian Semantic Web Conference (ASWC2006). bib pdf

Contact Persons

Osma Suominen

Kim Viljanen

Professsor Eero Hyvönen, Helsinki University of Technology, Laboratory of Media Technology and University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science

mail: firstname.lastname@tkk.fi

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