Exploring avenues of collaboration to advance health in Ontario

June 26, 2014

Close to 180 health officials and health technology companies attended the AdvancingHealth Partnering Forum hosted by OCE on June 25.

A highly targeted, inventive program aimed at bolstering innovation in Ontario’s public healthcare sector drew close to 180 health officials and health technology companies to a recent partnering forum.

The event, hosted by Ontario Centres of Excellence, was an opportunity to explore avenues for collaboration under AdvancingHealth, a new program that matches healthcare needs with innovative products and services through partnerships between public healthcare organizations, companies, and academic institutions.

The aim is to advance healthcare innovation directed to improving health outcomes, enhancing patient experience and making efficient use of resources through investments in collaborative demonstration projects that establish a strong case for adoption and show clear potential for scaling-up to the system-level.

“As many of us here today know, it can be very challenging to introduce new and creative products into hospitals and public healthcare organizations for a number of reasons,” noted  Dr. Tom Corr, President and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence.  

He pointed to a tendency on the part of cost-conscious hospitals to buy on a system-wide basis, limiting their product options and the capacity for innovation along with the barriers and resistance that often accompany change in any organization.   

Now, he said, OCE is introducing a program specifically aimed at matching healthcare needs and challenges with exciting new technologies.

“Ontario already has a very strong research and development community that is well positioned to introduce new technologies and innovative processes to the healthcare sector. Now we have created an unprecedented opportunity for companies and academics to engage with health-care customers to test and, where necessary, modify the product prior to ramping up, manufacturing and releasing it to the broad market,” said Dr. Corr.

The partnering forum event, which focused specifically on ICT/Mobile applications in health care, allowed attendees to closely examine several examples where healthcare innovation has been adopted; identify challenges, lessons learned and best practices; and explore partnership opportunities with one another.     

One of several health experts who addressed attendees, Dr. Anne Snowdon, Chair of the International Centre for Health Innovation at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University, spoke about the “key ingredients to innovation adoption” and the challenges associated with scalability.

Key players include industry to drive economic value and create the technologies and devices that lead to transformation; the policy makers to establish the conditions for innovation; and academics to produce evidence of the impact of innovation and help make the business case, she said.

While there is continuing reluctance on the part of the health-care system to work with the private sector, many acknowledge the need to leverage and work with industry in a transparent fashion.

In a new era of “passive patient” turned “empowered consumer” and an explosion of mobile apps into the health-care market, it’s important to understand “how digital technology can connect people to the health system in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Snowdon.  

Creative engineering and science can produce products and processes that result in better health care and treatments, better health outcomes along with new efficiencies and lower costs.

“This is critical at a time when governments here and around the world are struggling to provide affordable, quality healthcare in an era of fiscal restraint while demand continues to grow,” said Dr. Corr.   

“The sustainability of Ontario’s public health-care system will depend largely on innovations that enhance the efficiency, safety, quality, and productivity of health-care services. AdvancingHealth is designed to provide the innovation boost needed to achieve a new level of quality and performance.”

At the same time, this farsighted program will equip Ontario with the competitive edge it needs to capture and dominate global markets.