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The wave of new technologies driving the transformation of healthcare continues to grow, encompassing devices, apps, data analytics, sensors, wearables, and advanced diagnostic tools.  Equally as transformative, however, is the growing focus on applying those solutions across a continuum of care, from hospital to home.  

Markham has a uniquely connected health innovation ecosystem that includes an acute care hospital, in home care organizations, community agencies, and a regional innovation centre – all of which work together to assess new solutions, collaborate on adoption, and collectively remove barriers to the transformation of the healthcare system. With the shared goals of providing integrated, consumer-enabled best in class care, the partnerships in Markham are creating a highly attractive environment for industry innovators who are eager to quickly pilot, evaluate, and deploy new solutions.

In the last seven years, the health innovation cluster has doubled in Markham. The regional innovation centre based in Markham has a strong focus on driving health innovation. As a result, ventureLAB has seen the number of high potential health care ventures in its innovation portfolio triple in the last two years, with more than 270 companies working directly with health system organizations in Markham and York Region. The critical mass of these companies and the strong collaboration among healthcare stakeholders has resulted in more than $15 million of direct investments in 2016 through public grants and equity investments for the companies working with Markham’s health cluster.

Multi-faceted programs are designed by partners in the ecosystem to support the shift to an innovation mind-set within acute care settings, accelerate processes to get pilot projects launched and solutions procured, and provide the advanced technology tools needed by companies and health organizations to fully leverage the power and transformative potential of new solutions.   Collision days, community design thinking labs, specialized workshops, and unique programs support both the health institutions and the innovative companies, directly connecting needs and opportunities.

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At the heart of this unique ecosystem in Markham is the commitment to speed and agility. These aspects of the partnerships are based on deep trust and understanding, empowering the overall ecosystem to be an agile and effective adopter of new health innovations. As Marina Korneeva, founder and CEO of Dateva recently remarked, “We are blown away by the speed you are moving at and by your ability to mobilize others around you. We've never seen people in the healthcare space move that fast."

The health cluster is drawing attention internationally, with a recent visit from a digital health company from Costa Rica remarking on the dynamic innovation culture that they experienced over a three-day visit with key stakeholders.

The unique Markham cluster will continue to expand, with ventureLAB establishing a strategic partnership with IBM Canada, also headquartered in Markham. Through this partnership, companies and partner organizations will have access to a range of IBM tools and expertise to explore the potential of advanced data analytics and predictive capabilities to better manage our health system, and to empower patients, caregivers and community supports to elevate the level of insights needed to deliver better care, closer to home. 

Karen Dubeau is director of partner engagement with ventureLAB. 


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