Boosting Health Care with Technology

October 20, 2014

Boosting Health Care with Technology

October 2014 (Vancouver Sun) – Innovation Boulevard is bringing together health-related business, government and the medical community.

Innovation Boulevard: Surrey-based program brings together worlds of medicine, business

Canada is growing as an innovative nation, driving to be a strong leader in creating tangible benefits from science and technology. In health care, technological advances are providing solutions to the questions the industry is facing as we try to improve patient care, while treating our wounded health care system.

But the questions that fuel health care innovation remain: How do we improve the quality of care today? And how can we strive to deliver health care more efficiently to the individuals we serve each and every day? Increasingly, the answers are coming from technology-driven solutions.

A year and a half ago, the City of Surrey announced the formation of Innovation Boulevard, an ambitious vision for the future of care through health technologies. We would work together to create, support and nurture a bustling and productive global hub for health technologies. It would involve scientists, clinicians and businesses collaborating in one concentrated square mile of the city centre. But its reach would extend much further.

These passionate, focused, and dedicated people would bring together British Columbia’s busiest hospital, our largest health authority, our universities, all levels of government, and a rapidly growing sector of health-related businesses. It would connect with like-minded centres across Canada and the world, anchored by the efforts of Simon Fraser University, the Fraser Health Authority and the City of Surrey. It would be inclusive of all, determined in spirit, creative in partnership, and take a decidedly “get it done” approach toward a common vision. From this, a bold and amazing team has emerged and our health care is benefiting directly.

Scientific advances will continue to be read in top journals, but these benefits must also emerge as products that help people. Within Innovation Boulevard, companies that take products to health care markets are critical. These partnerships lead to health care innovation, like improving how we deliver medical technology beyond our hospital walls to help in care homes, homes, and any environment where and when care is needed most.

Technology innovations are changing the way we train our medical personnel. For example, by creating deployable computer-aided simulations it is possible to reduce medical mistakes, still the third-leading cause of death in Canada and the United States. Imaging technologies also help tackle hospital congestion, by using improved evaluation capabilities to find possible treatment options for complex chronic conditions like brain injury. In long-term care, we deploy technologies to protect people from falls, to monitor vital functioning, and to improve social and emotional connectedness that bring true quality of life.

In Canada, we often think of research in the abstract, as a concept that resides deep within the labyrinth of our universities. We debate the relative value of fundamental research against that of innovation. The reality is: basic research brings innovation and innovation opens up new avenues of basic research.

But to create value out of this cycle, we must ensure that these advances make it out of the laboratory and into the world to help. We must expand our engagement into the community. Engagement brings a better understanding of the relevant problems, and most importantly, allows our business sector to produce solutions that society signals are in critical need. This is what Innovation Boulevard is all about.

So what are the biggest barriers? One is cultural stereotypes, for example, a common barrier we often encounter relates to choosing Surrey as our base: “Great idea, wrong place.” Our culture expects this sort of activity in an established place. However, to borrow a quote from Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to where the puck is going.” Innovation Boulevard takes full advantage of opportunity. With rapid population growth and critical health care need, our most pressing challenges become our greatest opportunities. The solutions coming to Surrey will soon be needed elsewhere. By bringing together our regional strengths in order to compete in a global race, we’ll be ready to help our broader communities.

Another barrier is limited resources. However, limits to resources must be viewed as limits in successful partnership. Our hospitals must deliver the best care and, importantly, partner to find solutions to their biggest challenges. Our universities must focus on these challenges and demonstrate effective solutions. And our business sector must translate these solutions into products that improve care and reduce the economic costs. With a central value placed on being inclusive and creative in partnership, we connect health, science and business as a unified team that overcomes limited resources — to do more for less.

In physics, collisions create energy — the same is also true when ideas collide. Innovation Boulevard brings focused ideas about ways technology can solve our most pressing health care problems. The energy that is emerging has becomes the most powerful means for change — change that is designed to immediately benefit our individual lives.

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