Everyone knows that hospitals are incredibly busy places where medical teams and administrators are singularly focused on the important task of patient care.

From when they check in to work to when they check out, healthcare staff are absorbed in tending to those in their care. For the most part, they have little time to reflect on how care might be improved, or to consider the many products and services on the market which may help to deliver better outcomes for their patients.

And there are other reasons that it can be especially difficult to introduce innovation to a healthcare setting, despite Ontario’s strong research and development community. While the number and quality of companies devoted to the business of health-care innovation is truly impressive, many smaller companies find it challenging to introduce new, creative products into hospitals and other public healthcare settings. Major, established healthcare companies have existing contacts and a way into the system. But what about the entrepreneur with an exciting new product? Who do they contact? Also, in attempting to address rising costs and create economies of scale, hospitals often buy on a system-wide basis. This limits their product options and the capacity for innovation adoption.

At the same time, procurement processes aren’t always friendly to emerging firms. And products that are potentially disruptive to organizational culture or process are understandably often met with resistance, especially when work flow routines are highly structured as a means of ensuring efficiency and minimizing errors.

Even so, many Ontario hospitals are showing a strong appetite for innovation. And it’s not just research hospitals that are doing so but also those whose primary mission is strictly patient care. Some are even allocating new resources and establishing new positions or entire units with an innovation mandate. In June, Mackenzie Health, a regional healthcare provider in Southwest York Region, officially launched Canada’s first in-hospital innovation unit designed to transform the delivery of care through advanced technology.

Ontario Centres of Excellence is excited to support this growing healthcare innovation movement, and how it can increase the quality of patient care and create a more efficient and sustainable health-care system at a time when pressure to meet growing demands is intense.

We have recently announced $5 million in funding under our AdvancingHealth program for five collaborative demonstration projects featuring innovative healthcare provider organizations and exciting new health-care technologies. The program, which matches healthcare system needs and challenges with exciting new solutions, is a partnership between OCE and Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Ultimately, it is about supporting the adoption of new technologies with the potential to be implemented system wide, which will broadly improve patient outcomes, user experience, and use of healthcare resources across Ontario. The new funding will introduce new technologies in areas that include life-saving communication, stroke prevention, advanced epilepsy treatment, data quality and flow of patient information.

A new call for expressions of interest for the second round of the AdvancingHealth program is now open and will focus on “Virtual Care and Patient Engagement”. Full details can be found on the OCE website. Additionally, a panel discussion on the topic of innovation in the healthcare system will be held as part of OCE’s Discovery conference on April 27-28 at the Metro Convention Centre.

This is an extremely exciting time for healthcare in Ontario. As hospitals, clinicians, companies, researchers, and government continue to engage in collaborative innovation, we are certain to see system-wide improvements benefiting all Ontarians.