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Unveiling a new era of care at Canada’s most technologically advanced hospital

By joining forces with the local tech ecosystem, The Ottawa Hospital is transforming the future patient care

Dr. Forster
Dr. Alan Forster, the Ottawa Hospital’s VP of innovation and quality. Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Hospital.

Much of the coverage around The Ottawa Hospital’s New Campus Development on Carling Avenue has focused on the facility’s planned size (around 2.5 million sq. ft), its cost (around $2.8 billion), and its expected economic benefits for the city (an estimated 20,000 jobs). And rightfully so.

But there’s another important element of the new hospital campus we need to talk about: its foundation of technology and innovation and how that will empower the next generation of healthcare in Ottawa.

The hospital aims to be the most technologically advanced in the country, driving industry-leading research and providing the most sophisticated clinical care to every patient.

“Ultimately, we have three goals,” explains Dr. Alan Forster, the hospital’s VP of innovation and quality. “The first is to improve patient care – that includes patient experience of care, but also effectiveness, efficiency, and how it’s designed for the individual. Our secondary goal is to accelerate the transformation of the healthcare system. And then the third is to bring revenue and capital investment to the Ottawa region, so it can be reinvested in the local economy, but also into our health system so we see better services.”

All three goals are achievable through a focus on technology and innovation, says Dr. Forster – specifically through the new hospital’s command centre and big data analytics platform, its living laboratory and incubator space, and virtual healthcare hub.

The command centre

The new hospital’s command centre will provide unmatched situational awareness of the state of patients and the health system in Ottawa, particularly the city’s hospitals.

The command centre will draw on several different data sources – from electronic medical records to cardiac monitors in hospital rooms to wearable technology to track outpatients’ health signals remotely.

It will work in tandem with The Ottawa Hospital’s big data analytics platform to provide predictive analytics around various health signals, allowing administrators to distribute resources more efficiently and appropriately in real-time. The system, which will be one of the most advanced in Canada, if not the world, will also provide self-serve analytics for business users through the MDClone platform, which combines an accessible interface and data model with synthetic data.

“And that’s critical,” Dr. Forster explains, “because when dealing with information about people, there are always privacy concerns. Synthetic data removes those concerns because the data isn’t attributable to real people.”

There will also be opportunities to harness significant clinical efficiencies through data and artificial intelligence/machine learning – a critical development, especially given this summer’s headlines about staffing issues throughout the health system.

Machine learning solutions – akin to high-powered digital assistants – can scale healthcare workers’ effectiveness, reducing the need for repetitive tasks and speeding up vital processes, particularly patient monitoring and diagnostics. “Predictive algorithms are actually quite good at ruling things out, so you can narrow down the list of concerns quite quickly,” he says.

Living laboratory and incubator space

Hospital officials are well aware the new hospital will sit within one of the continent’s most robust technology scenes, and they’re determined to take advantage of that through the facility’s living laboratory and incubator spaces.

The two areas will exist symbiotically: The incubator will allow companies to innovate and design medical device prototypes, while the living laboratory will be a test bed for these new technologies  in a clinical setting with proper oversight.

The Calian Group CEO Kevin Ford says he sees the living laboratory and incubator as an extension of the great work being done at Invest Ottawa and Kanata North’s L-SPARK Accelerator.

“We’re building these technology ecosystems in Ottawa, and I think that helps foster more innovation in the city while connecting companies with real customer problems,” he says. “One of the biggest issues you have with innovation is that sometimes you think there’s a challenge – but you have no way of validating that.

“I think it’s going to be very valuable for the tech community to have a partner like The Ottawa Hospital – one that can speak from experience about the challenges in the system today.”

Virtual healthcare hub

The virtual healthcare hub will help The Ottawa Hospital use resources more effectively by allowing the deployment of virtual health care in the right situations, combined with in-person care when appropriate.

It will also facilitate more efficient remote monitoring of patients through wearable technology and machine learning models that can learn a patient’s baseline health signals and send an alert if those signals deviate.

“My sense is that the time is right to start using these technologies more,” says Dr. Forster, adding that AI-aided virtual health monitoring can keep patients more engaged with their health even when they’re not at the hospital.

“It can provide patients with information in a way that they can act on it,” he says. “That’s critical, because ultimately, everything we do is about helping people with their health. It’s not really about the healthcare system. It’s about people.”

For The Ottawa Hospital, the ultimate goal is to harness innovation and technology to help make better decisions, inform care, and find answers to some of healthcare’s greatest challenges. This will mean improved outcomes and better care for patients.