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The needs and expectations of today's patients are transforming the healthcare system at an unprecedented pace. Now, more than ever, hospitals must embrace innovation in order to meet those demands and deliver more efficient, coordinated, and convenient care.

This need is not lost on today's healthcare leaders. Among them are the staff at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH), who recently embarked on an ‘innovation journey’ to explore new digital health technologies for support in the community; pursue virtual care coordination and navigation; and pilot solutions that improve the experience of patients receiving care at the hospital.

“We set a goal to be the leader in healthcare innovation by combining the art of caring with the science of best practice,” says May Chang, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer with MSH.

The hospital's first step in its innovation journey was launching an office of innovation. Led by Dr. George Arnold, Chief of Clinical Innovation and Strategic Ventures, the office was created to facilitate new partnerships, trial new technologies, and promote a culture of innovation within MSH. Along with the formation of an external innovation council comprised of local experts, MSH has been leveraging its existing knowledge and network to ensure its innovative vision is aligned with community needs.

MSH has been successful in sparking a number of new partnerships. With ventureLAB it has tested a mobile application called Dash MD, designed to help patients recover after leaving the Emergency Department (ED) by giving them tools, instructions, and connections to other local care providers.

“All patients leave the ED with discharge instructions, follow-up plans, and appointments, and it’s challenging for patients to remember all of it,” explained Dr. Andrew Arcand, Chief of Emergency Medicine at MSH. “Many people use a smartphone as an access point for information, so it makes sense to provide an app like this for patients and their family members.”

In addition to forming an innovation collaboration called the Joint Centres for Transformative Healthcare Innovation with six area hospitals, MSH also enjoys a unique partnership with the City of Markham. It is the only hospital in Canada physically linked to a community centre (the Cornell Community Centre), through which it has been able to promote initiatives like the Breathe Better program for COPD patients.

There has been no shortage of innovation within the halls of MSH. Another example is the roll-out of a NICU Connect pilot project which introduced digital technology that keeps families connected to patients via real-time video streaming while MSH's care team is making its rounds; and an online ED wait time clock which enables the public to view potential wait times and the number of people waiting in the ED. Critical studies and operational initiatives have also taken the spotlight, including new strategies for the department of obstetrics and gynecology that have already reduced C-sections from 30% to 23% – one of the lowest rates in Canada.

MSH is also taking steps to combat one of the challenges many organizations face when building an innovation program; there are often small pockets of success in individual units or departments, but it is difficult to spread and scale those successes across the hospital. To help promote this sharing of new ideas, MSH held an innovation fair showcasing eight projects from across the hospital in January.  Hundreds of staff had the opportunity to engage in conversations about where to spread innovations and what the future holds for health technology.

“With more successes to come,” Arnold says “MHS's innovation journey is driven by a genuine buy-in from all levels of the hospital.” Telling the Toronto Star, “You need people who are willing to embrace change. You need the managerial structure. You need the senior administration support to actually facilitate that change … We’ve managed to not only have it, we’ve managed to extract it, bring it out, and grow it.”

Chang agrees, noting, “Innovation isn’t just a buzz word anymore. By necessity, it has become a way of life for hospitals, for healthcare, and for everyone in the service and caring business. It’s our business to make sure that we continue to push research and innovation so that we can best support our patients, families, and community. We are making it a priority to continue to evolve so that we can provide the best care possible.”

Pullquote:

“Markham Stouffville Hospital plays a key role in the city of Markham’s health technology cluster. Through its partnership with ventureLAB and Markham’s Regional Innovation Centre, MSH is supporting innovation in the community by helping companies to pilot and validate their technologies, leading to enhanced business formation, commercialization and high quality employment,” said Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti.



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