From Bethune to Benchimol, #HIP613 continues tradition of innovation in healthcare

Innovation has always been at the heart of medicine.

Throughout history, Canadian scientists and physicians have innovated medical care in groundbreaking ways. Frederick Banting co-discovered insulin to treat diabetes. William Osler created the first residency program for training physicians. Norman Bethune developed a mobile blood-transfusion service in the midst of the Spanish Civil War.

With medical discoveries, new technologies, and inventive practices, healthcare has evolved dramatically in the past 100 years. But it’s not done yet.

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario — Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO-OCTC) and Hacking Health Ottawa are imagining what medicine could look like in the next 100 years with their Health Innovation Program, also known as #HIP613.

Today as throughout history, doctors are at the forefront of using technology to improve healthcare. CHEO-OCTC physicians and scientists have developed an app to accurately classify heart murmurs, developed software to de-identify health data to maintain patient privacy while using data for research, and created an iPad tool for patients to check their hearing in the comfort of their own homes.

We’re building a community of problem-solvers,” said Alex Munter, Chief Executive Officer of CHEO-OCTC. “We want to offer the best care and that means better connecting our services both within and beyond our walls for children, youth and families.”

#HIP613 aims not only to encourage health innovations, but also to institutionalize them within CHEO-OCTC. It is the latest in a long line of CHEO-OCTC initiatives to make cutting-edge technology as commonly used in clinical settings as stethoscopes. CHEO-OCTC was one of the first hospitals to launch MyChart, where patients and their parents or guardians can access their health records. The portal is run through Epic, a leading electronic health record system that makes patients’ lives better.

“How do we align healthcare with new realities like smartphones, artificial intelligence and virtual reality?” said Hugo Lemay, Director of Connected Care. “That’s what this is about. We need to adapt to this fast-approaching new reality.”

It’s a question on the mind of government, too. In her 2016 mandate letter to the Minister of Health and Long-term Care, the Ontario Premier asked the Minister “to drive collaboration across the health care system, and champion Ontario as a leading centre for new and innovative health technologies and processes.”

Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins has stated that he wants Ontario to be a leader in digital health, and as such, established the Office of the Chief Innovation Strategist to make it happen. The Office states its “goal is to grow businesses and build a health innovation ecosystem in Ontario.”

Meanwhile, the Ontario Centres of Excellence’s Health Technologies Fund supports the development of made-in-Ontario health technologies, and its REACH program helps healthcare providers procure and adopt innovative medical technologies.

At the federal level, FedDev Ontario announced a $15 million investment to York University, Southlake Regional Health Centre and the University Health Network in July 2016 to develop and commercialize clinical applications and medical devices to manage chronic disease. The investment was matched by more than $19 million from 36 partners, for a total budget of more than $34 million.

With #HIP613, CHEO-OCTC and Hacking Health Ottawa are contributing to the innovation ecosystem growing across Ontario, building on a proud Canadian tradition of rethinking and innovating healthcare.

Moving beyond the Napoleonic Wars with #HIP613

The entrepreneurial spirit of Bethune is alive and well in many healthcare practitioners. Dr. Eric Benchimol thinks there’s a better way to determine the priority of patients’ treatments.

“We triage in the same way they triaged during the Napoleonic War!”

On November 23, a full house of healthcare professionals, technology leaders, and designers heard his idea to automate triage with a computer algorithm. For centuries, triage has been used to prioritize the care of patients by need. Currently, it relies on the clinical expertise of physicians, taking valuable time away from direct patient care. With the right technology, Benchimol proposed, triage could be faster and more efficient.

Benchimol was one of nine healthcare professionals to pitch his idea at the official launch of #HIP613. Others pitched ideas to improve breastfeeding, concussion recovery, and diagnosis of sleep apnea. Many of these ideas addressed real-world problems identified at a previous CHEO-OCTC/Hacking Health Ottawa event in April.

In his opening remarks, Munter urged participants to favour big, paradigm-shifting ideas over incrementalism. “Continuous improvement of the candle didn’t lead to the lightbulb.”

The event was sponsored by Macadamian, a user-design experience firm, and IBM, with representatives from Microsoft Canada, Shopify, CGI, and many other technology companies attending. The nine healthcare professionals received feedback from the tech experts in the room to hone their ideas.

“We absolutely support this 100 per cent and support the development of ideas through CHEO-OCTC, Hacking Health and through you here today, because it’s really about collaboration,” Lorraine Chapman, Senior Director of Healthcare at Macadamian told event attendees. “…we are not just looking to solve problems with technology, we are looking to solve meaningful and complex problems by bringing together our collective brainpower.”

It takes a village to make an idea a prototype, then a product, and then see that product widely used in healthcare settings. #HIP613 is bringing together people with the medical, technical and business acumen to bring an idea to fruition — and then scale it.

Some medical companies are thinking on a bigger scale than ever before. On December 12, Bayer and Versant announced the launch of BlueRock Therapeutics, a regenerative medicine company that plans to develop induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapies to cure a range of diseases. They committed $225 million USD, representing one of the largest-ever series A financings for a biotech company in Canada.

“Look at the opportunities in Ontario; what a time to be at the centre of pediatric care and health innovation,” said Mitchell Kutney, one of the organizers for #HIP613.

It is hoped ideas from the #HIP613 will turn into products and solutions to be piloted at CHEO-OCTC. Hacking Health initiatives in other cities have kickstarted many successful innovations, such as an award-winning maternity app and a video game which simulates life with childhood autism.

In Ottawa, teams will create prototypes of their products over a weekend hackathon in April. CHEO-OCTC will consider piloting projects created at the hackathon, taking ideas from the event into a clinical setting. It is an exciting opportunity for innovators to make healthcare better, now.

Many people in Ottawa and beyond are excited to see where #HIP613 may lead. More than 100 people tweeted about the event on November 23, and its hashtag trended in Canada. The event was covered in the Ottawa Citizen.

Since then, #HIP613 held another event at Impact HUB Ottawa, and more than 50 people have already signed up for the next #HIP613: Design Thinking event, to be held on February 1 at the new IBM studio— you can join the event for free here.

Brainstorming and discussion will continue from now until the hackathon at, where anyone can join projects and help make them a reality.

With a robust innovation ecosystem involving everyone from healthcare centres and medical professionals, to engineers and tech companies, to policymakers and government, the next groundbreaking health innovation is just around the corner.

We hope you’ll be part of it, too. Sign up for our newsletter to get #HIP613 updates (you will only get emails for event notices) leading up to our April 2017 hackathon. And please join us on the Sparkboard, where real people are ideating in real-time.

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