Technology and Innovation

Adapting practices to protect expecting parents, newborns

Dr. Tali Bogler . Photo credit: Unity Health Toronto By Emily Dawson Across Canada and around the globe, physicians and health care professionals are rapidly adapting practices as they look to find effective ways to deliver care while minimizing the risk of contracting COVID-19 for patients and health care providers. To help keep regular pre- and post-natal care and routine well-child visits on track, Dr. Tali Bogler came up with an alternative to the typical schedule to keep these patients safe during the pandemic. “Pregnant women, newborns, and children due for vaccinations still require care during the pandemic. Given the need to reduce the number of visits…the timing and frequency of visits can be adjusted,” the physician in St. Michael’s Family Health Team (FHT) and Chair of Family Pr...

Mental health services go virtual at SickKids and SickKids CCMH during COVID-19 pandemic

SickKids CCMH staffers Rebecca Hsiang (on screen) and Joanne Wilson demonstrating a videoconference therapy session By Jane Kitchen The mental health teams at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health (CCMH) in Toronto have had a rapid advance into virtual care in response to COVID-19. SickKids TeleLink Mental Health Program, SickKids CCMH and SickKids are part of the SickKids mental health enterprise dedicated to the care and treatment of children and youth with mental health disorders. “Building on the TeleLink program’s extensive experience of delivering video-based mental health services for the past two decades, virtual care is now part of the strategic plan and includes SickKids and SickKids CCMH,” says Christina Bartha, Executive Direc...

Unprecedented collaboration: Will the way we work together be forever changed for the better?

The critical care ventilator (left) and the portable version. It’s easy to look back at the days before COVID-19 with a sense of nostalgia. They may only have been a few months back, but they are already looking like “the good old days” compared to the health crisis unfolding now. But not everything was easier before the pandemic. If there is a silver lining in these challenging times, it’s that Canadians are now collaborating in ways that were more difficult — or even unheard of — before the COVID-19 pandemic, with a greater appreciation of the contributions of different stakeholders. One obvious example of enhanced collaboration is the use of digital technologies that enable doctors to safely connect with patients virtually and to monitor them remotely. These technologies have been avail...

Researchers use robots to accelerate COVID-19 testing

Dr Buir loading the testing robot.  In a tucked-away lab at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, a handful of scientists – and their robot “colleagues” – are leading the race to scale up COVID-19 testing to meet the demand of a surge in cases. Alongside his team of molecular microbiologists, Dr. David Bulir of The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton is automating COVID-19 testing for greater volumes and faster turnaround times. For every 100 samples, Dr. Bulir’s robotic liquid handling system will be able to confirm results in just two and a half hours. Once the system is developed and optimized, it will be rolled out for clinical use at the Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HRLMP) to enable COVID-19 testing to jump from 700 samples per 24 hours to about 1,500 samples o...

Deploying virtual care in the battle against COVID-19

Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) has swiftly deployed virtual care in its fight against COVID-19. There, a team overseen by Dr. Christopher Smith joined forces with Ontario Health (OTN) to launch a program that leverages a provincial remote monitoring solution to follow patients with COVID-19 at a distance. “The goal is to ensure symptoms are stable or improving for those who do not require hospitalization or who have been discharged,” says Smith. “We want these patients to know that someone is keeping a close eye on them—something that can be immensely reassuring given how quickly this disease can potentially progress.” The team developed protocols for intake, assessment, secondary assessment, and escalation—and trained staff across both MGH and South East Toronto Family Health Tea...

OMA and Sunnybrook Announce a Partnership to Improve and Expand MyChart

The Ontario Medical Association and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre today announced their joint effort to expand and enhance MyChart, Canada’s largest personal online health portal designed specifically for patients, and through them for their families, physicians and personal care teams. “Patients have been demanding greater access to their test results and medical records so they can better understand and participate in their own health care,” said Dr. Sohail Gandhi, President of the Ontario Medical Association. “Enhancements to MyChart will support this important goal and ultimately lead to improved outcomes for patients.” The collaboration between the OMA and Sunnybrook will result in the expansion of the MyChart support call centre, and enable third-party primary care services such ...

Accelerating virtual care integration

In response to feedback from physicians and pharmacists managing patient consultations virtually during COVID-19, Canada Health Infoway’s PrescribeIT® has initiated an EMR-Virtual Care Investment Program. The Infoway EMR-Virtual Care Investment initiative will provide participating EMR vendors with financial support to rapidly integrate or scale existing virtual care technologies to meet the growing demand during the pandemic when Canadians are encouraged to observe physical distancing. The program is just one way Infoway is working with Health Canada and the jurisdictions to provide support during this time. “This crisis has shown us that we need to get our health care system ready for any eventuality,” noted Michael Green, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Health In...

Health Canada approves new fast, portable COVID-19 test

Ottawa’s Spartan Bioscience today announced it has received Health Canada approval for its rapid, accurate and portable COVID-19 test. Approval by Health Canada means that tests can now be shipped to Spartan’s federal and provincial government partners starting immediately. Spartan’s test consists of a portable DNA analyzer called the Spartan Cube, which is the size of a coffee cup. The Cube performs the test with Spartan’s COVID-19 test cartridges and proprietary swabs, manufactured in Ottawa. The automated test can be operated by non-laboratory personnel in settings such as airports, border crossings, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics, and remote communities. “We are grateful to the Government of Canada for working closely with us to expedite the review and approval process,” says Pa...

New online tool directs patients and visitors to support services in the community

The new online tool lists numerous organizations across the Greater Toronto Area that provide various social services, along with contact information. Photo credit: Unity Health Toronto By Selma Al-Samarrai Often, discharged patients, community members or visitors come to Unity Health Toronto staff asking for help to find social care such as crisis services, financial support, abuse resources, housing options or support for newcomers. In response, the Patient and Family Education and Social Work teams at St. Michael’s Hospital created the new Community Resources for Patients and Families online tool, which lists numerous organizations across the Greater Toronto Area that provide these services, along with contact information. We spoke to Lauren Massey, manager of Collaborative Pr...

Virtual interpreting service helps break down language barriers

Pulkit Mahajan, James Sidney and Samuel See, radiation therapists at the BC Cancer – Surrey radiation therapy clinic with the VRI device. By Kris Olsen As Canada’s third largest and third-most populous province, British Columbia (B.C.) is home to people of many different ethnic origins. According to the Canada 2016 Census, 28 per cent of people in B.C. spoke only one language that wasn’t English or French. Language barriers can cause a number of challenges during a medical appointment, and can lead to frustration for patients and providers, as well as confusion with care plans. The Provincial Language Service (PLS), a program of Provincial Health Services Authority, provides interpreting and translation services to BC health authorities and private physician offices. In 2019 it recei...

New report a roadmap for accelerating virtual health services in Canada

Today, the Virtual Care Task Force (VCTF), a collaboration of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), released its recommendations for enabling and expanding the implementation of virtual care in Canada. The report, Virtual care: Recommendations for scaling up virtual medical services, outlines 19 recommendations for creating a pan-Canadian approach to the virtualization of health services. To inform its work over the past 11 months, the task force formed four working groups – interoperability and governance, licensure and quality of care, payment models and medical education – to explore the current barriers to using virtual care in Canada and to identify possible ...

Machine keeps human livers alive for one week outside of the body

Researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, Wyss Zurich and the University of Zurich have developed a machine that repairs injured human livers and keeps them alive outside the body for one week. This breakthrough may increase the number of available organs for transplantation saving many lives of patients with severe liver diseases or cancer. Until now, livers could be stored safely outside the body for only a few hours. With the novel perfusion technology, livers — and even injured livers — can now be kept alive outside of the body for an entire week. This is a major breakthrough in transplantation medicine, which may increase the number of available organs for transplantation and save many lives of patients suffering from severe liver disease or a variety of cancers. In...

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