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Canadian health-care innovations in the 21st Century

By Conservative MP Joy Smith      

The Health Committee will continue moving forward with the goal to provide the best information possible to the health-care community, provinces and territories to ensure the empowerment of patients and healing of the sick.

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Many innovative ideas and practices are emerging to address healthcare challenges today. This includes technological innovation, e-health, and tele-robotics, to name a few. These innovative practices are found in local hospitals, long-term care facilities, universities, and in the ranks of health-care providers and patients.

 

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Health passed a motion to undertake a study of technological innovation and to hear from the innovators. Topics included improvements and changes to health-care delivery, drugs, medical devices, and research in disease prevention. Our government has developed a regulatory framework and funds research leading to the development of new innovative technologies. 

Through the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), approximately $1-billion is spent every year in research and innovation. CIHR invested approximately $24-million in the Institute of Population and Public Health, and $14.9-million in over 100 projects related to robotics. In tele-health and telemedicine, CIHR has funded over $10-million since 2006, supporting more than 80 research projects, focusing on the development of new e-tools as well as the evaluation of ethics, health, and law.

The House Health Committee heard witnesses and experts in their respective areas of research and medicine, who shared the best practices that resulted from the financial support of the federal government. The committee heard of e-health and tele-health technologies as a dynamic tool to promote patient self- care. 

As an example, an experimental program on home hemodialysis was created, which provided patients with a dialysis machine at home. This initiative proved to be extremely successful, providing the patient with peace of mind, security and a better chance of managing their personal health care. There was also a savings of $20,000 per patient annually due to patients administering their own care, relying less on nurses and the local hospital.

Another example is the innovative mobile phone application developed by the Centre for Global e-Health Innovation. Bant, the mobile phone application, is a popular choice among diabetic teenagers who have to manage their blood sugar daily. The Bant application communicates with patients’ blood glucose meters and regularly captures the blood sugar readings. It was determined through a study designed to ascertain if teenagers effectively used the Bant application. 

Researchers found that teenagers using the application tested 50 per cent more frequently, prior to using the Bant application.
 

E-health technology is on the cutting edge of patient-care initiatives. The Health Committee heard from a hospital in the National Capital Region, which has developed several innovative initiatives, including paperless electronic medication reconciliation. 

This has enabled monitoring of the patient’s medication, not only inside the hospital, but outside the facility as well. The federal government invested $2.1-billion in Canada Health Infoway to assist provinces and territories in the development of electronic health records, tele-health systems, drug information systems and digital diagnostic imaging.
 

E-Health technology can be a great support to health professionals by providing them with the most up to date information. Through Health Canada, the federal government invested $130-million over the past five years for the development of e-Health and tele-health in First Nations communities. There are currently more than 300 tele-health of video-conferencing sites in First Nations communities that offer a vast number of services including tele-visitation for family members, tele-diabetes, tele-education, and tele-mental health. 

The Assembly of First Nations and Canada’s Health Informatics association, with the support of FNIHB and Canada Health Infoway hosted the First Nations e-Health Convergence Forum in June 2012, to help First Nations develop and fully implement aligned health projects that correspond to First Nations principals and priorities.

These innovative technologies are reported to be very helpful in improving health care delivery and support in remote areas. This includes the development of a network of robots in five units located in Nova Scotia, Nain, Labrador that perform video conference tele-robotics with no delay in communication between health care professionals. 

With tele-robotics, and portable systems, physicians can not only see the patient, but also diagnose a condition from a remote location and direct the treatment of the patient. With the use of robots, physicians can move freely in health-care facilities, enter patients’ rooms to deliver health care and speak with patients directly. This provides support and direction to nurses and other health-care professions attending to the patient.
 

The House Health Committee’s study of innovative technologies has looked at the impact on the care and well-being of those with disabilities, cancer patients and those with mental health challenges. As chair of the House Health Committee, it is my goal that we continue to study and hear from the people who are improving the health and safety of Canadians. The Health Committee will continue moving forward with the goal to provide the best information possible to the health-care community, provinces and territories to ensure the empowerment of patients and healing of the sick.

Conservative MP Joy Smith, who represents Kildonan-St. Paul, Man.), is chair of the House Health Committee.

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