Why Integrating Innovation in Health Care Matters

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Today’s guest post comes from François Laflamme, Director, Government Relations and Innovation at Lilly Canada. 

Francois 2 croppedLast week, I attended the official opening summit of Toronto’s first Health Innovation Week. Toronto Health Innovation Week was a week-long event designed to showcase much of Toronto’s innovation—including pitch competitions, opportunities for start-ups to connect with investors, tours of innovation facilities, and policy roundtables. It was an opportunity for experts at the intersection of health and policy, business, and technology to show how their fields are shaping the Canadian health care landscape.

The first session I attended was a keynote by John Nosta, Digital Health Futurist and founder of NOSTALAB. He spoke about how technology is steadily becoming a key disruptor in health care. 

What I found interesting about this talk was the speed at which technology is progressing, its potential to change the way we live, and the work to be done to integrate these innovations into health care. More and more health care stakeholders realize that improving patient health means implementing policies and processes that support innovation.

The Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist is a testament to this fact. This office of the Government of Ontario, which is led by William Charnetski, aims to help build Ontario’s health innovation ecosystem. The Office already has a mandate to fund 15 projects through the Health Technologies Fund. By funding these 15 projects, Ontario is fostering a health innovation ecosystem with the aim of developing new patient-care technologies and speeding their adoption. 

The Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist also introduced its first three Innovation Brokers. Their mandate is to facilitate the integration of home-grown digtal health and medical technologies into the health care system, to make them available to patients faster. 

The announcement was made in partnership with Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. This multi-ministerial approach demonstrates the breadth of the government’s efforts that are needed to increase adoption of innovation in the health care system. This holistic approach should also be applied when developing pharmaceutical policies so that they take into account both research investments and access to medicines.

Outside Toronto Health Innovation Week, the province of Quebec recently announced in its 2017 budget that it will be creating a similar innovation bureau. Details will be published in the coming life sciences strategy, but the overall goal will be to accelerate the introduction and optimal application of innovative technologies in the health system.

Both Quebec and Ontario are taking steps to accelerate this integration of innovation into their health systems, which in turn should help make them more efficient and deliver better care for patients. For the companies developing these technologies comes the potential to become commercially viable and export their expertise.

Gathering together at events like Toronto Health Innovation Week reminds us that we live in an amazing time of discovery. Our policies need to reflect innovation and encourage its adoption across the health care ecosystem, and I saw firsthand the passion that stakeholders have for working together to make this happen