Monday 26th of February 2018
On 06th August 2010

An Exclusive Interview with Juha Puustjärvi from Helsinki University and Aalto University, Finland

"The research advances that will lead to cooperative information systems do not come from any single research area within the field of computer science..."

I obtained my B.Sc. and M.Sc degree in computer science in 1985 and 1990, respectively, and my PhD degree in computer science in 1999, all from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Since 2003 I have been the professor of information society technologies at Lappeenranta University of Technology. I am currently an adjunct professor of computer science at Helsinki University and an adjunct professor of e-business at Aalto University. My current research interests include eLearning, eHealth, eBussines, knowledge management, semantic web and databases. In particular, I have investigated cooperative information systems in various fields such as in healthcare and B2B.

How did you gain interest in cooperative information systems?
The basic problem of interoperability is very elegant, namely "How communicating parties can find and understand each other". On the other hand, its analysis is very challenging as it relates to many traditional fields of computer science such as modeling, protocols and programming. In addition, many buzzwords such as Web services, SOA, open systems and agents relate to interoperability issues. As a result analyzing interoperability is very challenging and many-sided topic, which is also of prime importance.

What trend do you foresee in the interoperation of autonomous systems?
Interoperability issues are widely studied during the last years. Though there are still some open problems, the technology itself could be widely introduced in a near future. For example, the introduction of the Semantic Web technologies such as OWL and OWL-S would allow the development of sophisticated solutions for the interoperation.

With respect to the healthcare sector it means that the communicating parties such as pharmacies, medicinal authors, medicinal wholesalers and pharmaceutical companies should commit to the same ontology. It, however, does not require the introduction of a universal ontology for the healthcare sector. This situation is analogous with natural languages: a pharmacy, or any medicinal organization, may communicate in French with medicinal authorities and in English with pharmaceutical companies. Just as there is no universal natural language, so there is no universal ontology.

However, there are many non-technical obstacles for the widespread introduction of these ontology based technologies. An obstacle is the slowness of standardization processes. Also replacing legacy systems by new technologies may require large efforts and high cost, hence many organizations are not willing for such reforms. For example, in healthcare sector the HL7 standard is proven to be a valuable and powerful standard for exchanging structured documents, and thereby replacing that standard by a new one that supports semantic interoperability is problematic.

The introduction of a new technology is also an investment. The investment on new Semantic Web-technology includes a variety of costs including software, hardware and training costs. Training the staff on Semantic Web-technology is a big investment, and hence many organizations like to cut on this cost as much as possible. However, the incorrect usage and implementation of a new technology, due to lack of proper training, might turn out to be more expensive in the long run.

What did you investigate in your last publication?
The title of my last publication was "Providing Relevant Health Information for Patient Centered Healthcare". Patient-centric healthcare is an emerging healthcare model that optimizes the healthcare system to focus on patient experience and outcomes for better health and well-being. It requires that patients as well as physicians should have the ability to obtain and understand health information, and make appropriate health decisions. A problem here is how such health information should be gathered from a variety of heterogeneous data sources, and how patient and physicians should access such information.

This article was published in IEEE HealthCom 2010 conference. The conference provides an opportunity to bring together interested parties from around the world working in the health care field to exchange ideas, to discuss innovative and emerging solutions and to develop collaborations. It is also an important forum for discussions on e-Health projects sponsored by world bodies such as ITU, WHO and EC, including FP6 and FP7 European projects.

What topics have you been teaching so far?
I have a long experience of lecturing in universities for at both undergraduate and graduate levels. I have lectured many courses including Database Systems, Distributed Databases, Database Implementation, Database Programming, Transaction Processing, Web Technologies, XML, Semantic Web, Service Oriented Computing and Business Processes.

Your recommendations and advice for young researchers who would like to pursue research in cooperative information systems?
Cooperative information systems comprise a demanding research area. The research advances that will lead to cooperative information systems do not come from any single research area within the field of computer science. Hence, this research area requires theoretical knowledge from a variety of fields including agent technologies, information retrieval, business processes, transaction processing and mathematical logic.

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