This summer, Taru Vainikainen, Alec Hellström and Kristian Ahlers will be sweating it out at the world’s hottest Startup Sauna.


Summer of Startups: Online healthcare cost comparison tool

The Summer of Startups is well underway and the sun is shining on Kristian Ahlers, Taru Vainikainen and Alec Hellström. The trio make up one of the 13 teams chosen to sweat it out at Startup Sauna’s nine-week Summer of Startups programme in Espoo, where they will be mentored by some of Finland’s most experienced serial entrepreneurs, investors and trainers.

“I’m always looking for an excuse to write some code,” Vainikainen says with a laugh.

“So I rang up Alec Hellström, who I know through sport, and asked if there was much variation in private healthcare costs. Alec is studying medicine and immediately said yes.”

A month later, the first prototype of a price comparison website specialising in private healthcare providers was up and running. By that point, the pair had invited Kristian Ahlers, Alec’s friend from university, to join them. With the arrival of master programmer Tuomas Järvensivu the team was complete, and they were officially in business.

Price comparisons based on symptoms

Their startup, eMedi Innovations Oy, created the Lääkä online service. First launched back in December 2015, it allows consumers to compare the fees charged by different private healthcare providers.

“This is the only service in Finland that allows you to generate a cost estimate calculated on the basis of your actual symptoms. Included in the estimate are the appointment fee, any investigations you are likely to need and the medical centre’s service fee, as well as the Kela rebate,” Ahler’s explains.

The service has proved popular with the public, attracting up to 25,000 visitors each month, and has garnered more social media followers than many of the medical practices themselves. The service covers 70% of the Finnish population.

“Previously, consumers simply did not have the opportunity to draw these sorts of price comparisons or to judge whether they were being asked to pay over the odds. Our service allows them to do that and it is really worthwhile,” Kristian Ahlers says.

He says he booked himself in for a blood test at two different medical practices. Both samples were sent off to the same laboratory for analysis but the difference in price was considerable.

“At the second place, I paid more than double for the exact same service.”

As a further example, he shows a price comparison for a spine MRI scan. The cheapest service costs EUR 179 while the most expensive is charged at nearly EUR 500.

More than 400 private medical, dental and imaging service providers have signed up to the Lääkä service. The cost data has been collected online, by telephone and through site visits. According to Ahlers, around 100 healthcare providers have proactively contacted the company to have their details included as part of the service.

The online facility also offers information on 50 public sector healthcare providers. The public sector units are ranked according to the percentage of non-urgent referrals seen within two weeks. For this, eMedi Innovations uses public data from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

“The service is free for healthcare providers and consumers alike. A fee is paid by the service providers once an appointment is made through the service.”

Ahlers, Vainikainen and Hellström would like to promote enhanced transparency in private healthcare costs. The ability to compare and contrast is a win-win situation for all involved.

“When a service provider does well in the comparisons, they will gain more patients. Transparency and comparability will always drive up standards.”

Learning and networking

The Summer of Startups could not have come at a better time for the team.

“A friend of ours told us about this opportunity and we applied,” Vainikainen explains.

“We were really keen to do some networking in Otaniemi and to meet people who share our interests,” Hellström adds.

“We are new to this game and really appreciate the chance to access some mentoring and training.”

The young entrepreneurs have a very clear idea of what they want to achieve next.

“The Finnish health and social care sector is undergoing a programme of reform at the moment and our plan is to create a new tool that will help people make the most of the choice that they will have under the new arrangements,” Ahlers says, adding that their service also lends itself to markets beyond Finland.   

After a strong start that saw them ranked fourth in the’s list of the 100 hottest Finnish startups, eMedi Innovations is now hoping to pick up even more steam at the Startup Sauna.