Longwoods Blog

Mohawk College and Ontario Health celebrate lasting legacy of the online Innovation Lab

By Andrea Johnson

Hamilton, ONT: Mohawk College and Ontario Health recently celebrated the successful conclusion of the Innovation Lab, a multi-year applied research collaboration. The Innovation Lab, hosted at innovation-lab.ca and launched in May 2016, was a sandbox environment that provided the necessary tools, APIs, developer portals, and specifications for digital health developers to work through a significant part of their research and product development in a secure, cost-effective manner.

Available online for almost four years, the Innovation Lab became a multi- jurisdictional Canadian digital health success story, attracting users from 220 organizations, with over 1,500 site visits each month. Vendors used it to develop EHR-connected prototypes to support business cases and investment decisions. Software development teams based at provincial organizations in four different Canadian provinces, joined the community of innovators that were sharing resources such as specifications, code samples and guides.

In 2015, the Digital Services team at Ontario Health then called eHealth Ontario, reached out to Mohawk’s mHealth & eHealth Development Innovation Centre (MEDIC) to lead the creation of the simulated environment. Innovation Lab would become one of MEDIC’s flagship applied research projects. The provincial organization was already familiar with MEDIC’s applied research in digital health, such as its work on the initial prototyping of SMArTVIEW, a technology enabling in-home monitoring of patients recovering from cardiac and vascular surgery.

“It was – and in many ways still is – a pioneering collaboration,” says Jeffrey McIsaac, Dean of Applied Research at Mohawk College.  “When college researchers work on applied research projects, they are typically operating on a tight timeline. Our partners need to commercialize their products and ideas as soon as possible.  With the Innovation Lab, we had the opportunity to engage over multiple years which allowed us to innovate, iterate and support Ontario Health in real-time.”

Chris Pentleton, vice president and chief architect with the Ontario Health Digital Services calls Innovation Lab “a valuable resource” for the digital health community.

“Over the 4 years since Ontario Health (Digital Services) and Mohawk College have partnered with the Innovation Lab, it has supported many ground-breaking projects that have advanced electronic health record and connectivity across the province,” says Pentleton. “Both organizations can be proud of the innovations we have sparked and the digital professionals we have supported early in their careers”.

Innovation was always at the forefront of the MEDIC team’s mind throughout the project. Andrew Norgate, General Manager of MEDIC, calls it the universal digital health question: “How do we inject innovation into the public healthcare system?”

“As an applied research team,” Norgate explains, “we are data-driven innovators. Healthcare needs to be efficient and cost-effective; there is no time or money to waste. Thanks to Innovation Lab, we have four years of information that validates the technical needs of digital health companies- not only in Ontario, but across the country.”

Adam Kozlowski is a senior technical project manager with Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. His team in Digital Health Solutions and Innovations Branch (DHSI) have been using the Innovation Lab since its inception and praised it for allowing “standardized quality solutions to be developed in an effective and efficient manner, under much reduced time-to-market conditions.”

Many prototypes developed by Ontario Health within the platform will soon be in the hands of Ontario healthcare providers, according to Vipin Saini, the Initiative Lead at Ontario Health. For example, the eNotification Management prototype that was incubated in the Innovation Lab is now being piloted in Ontario. This new digital health tool provides clinicians with real-time notifications about critical and significant events that are of importance to them and the patients they care for.

Although the Innovation Lab is no longer available online – the last day of online access was March 31, 2020 – the end of the project doesn’t mark the end of a partnership between Ontario Health and Mohawk College. The two organizations continue to explore opportunities to support innovation in digital health, says Norgate, who hopes to see a new project that will complement MEDIC’s increased expertise in artificial intelligence and digital health usability.

“As a research lab, we strive to do two things: help our partners innovate and transform our students into trained professionals. The Innovation Lab allowed us to reach both those goals. We can’t thank Ontario Health enough for that opportunity.”

Mohawk College’s mHealth & eHealth Development Innovation Centre (MEDIC) is a NSERC -funded Technology Access Centre, providing specialized R&D support in Digital Health to Canadian businesses and government partners. It is also a member of Digital Health Canada, a national organization dedicated to connecting, inspiring, and educating the digital health professionals that are creating the future of health in Canada.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 8th, 2020 at 3:47 pm and is filed under Longwoods Online.