It’s no secret that the pandemic has done a number on our already stretched-to-the-brink healthcare system. From record high wait times for services and surgeries to major burnout in healthcare workers, it’s harder than ever for patients to get the help they need. That’s why the companies on the pages that follow are working to revolutionize access to services, for both patients and providers.
But while we know we’re lucky, we also know the systems (each province has their own) are not without flaws, with perhaps the most significant issue being timely and easy access to services. Wait times for everything from specialist referrals to certain surgeries were long before the onset of the pandemic, but now — nearly three years later — it is close to unmanageable. Add in the immense stress of the public health crisis on healthcare workers, and it’s easy to see why experts are extremely concerned about the state of the healthcare system in our country.
Recognizing this reality, many companies are now exploring ways to make things easier for both patients and providers. From figuring out how to deliver better preventative care to reinventing waiting rooms, the innovation happening in our country to help Canadians receive better, quicker service is second to none. Read on for three companies that are already making a difference.
The tagline of this healthcare technology company is “data-driven, preventative care.” The aim of the company, which operates a network of primary care clinics across Ontario and Alberta, is to move from taking a reactive approach to the health of a patient, to one of prevention and early detection. Using an ecosystem of digital applications, the team of physicians and support staff can derive actionable insights from data about a patient in order to apply targeted therapeutics to identify and start treating disease before it’s too late.
“The idea is for health care teams to have better visibility on more of a patient’s journey,” says Dr. Alexander Dobranowski, CEO of MCI Onehealth. “This is paramount to improving access to care.” The technology developed by Dobranowski and his partners utilizes computer-assisted diagnostics and support, including a system that flags doctors when patients miss follow-up appointments. “We know that inefficient processes and clerical errors can lead to worse prognoses. By automating certain functions, fewer patients will fall through the cracks.”
But identifying the need is one thing, and providing the required services is another. With this in mind, MCI Onehealth has expanded their network from both physical and virtual primary care physicians and urgent care/ walk-in presence to include specialists, research and lab capabilities. “We’re starting to be able to see improved patient outcomes as a direct impact of our technology and our network,” says Dobranowski. “We knew we needed to help the system, and it’s clearer than ever that we are.”
Each one of WaiveTheWait’s founders got involved because of a difficulty within the healthcare system. “When I was eight years old, my dad got into a terrible kitchen accident where he almost lost his finger,” says Shreyansh Anand, the company’s CEO. “We quickly rushed to our closest hospital, but we waited about eight hours before he finally got the services he needed.” Anand says he recognized even then that, while everyone was doing the best they could, they were all overwhelmed. He has carried that memory with him for his whole life, and it’s more relevant than ever.
Anand, along with his co-founder working out of Queen’s University, realized that many of the tasks that bog people down and take them away from patients were routine, simple things. “For example, at a family clinic, a staff member will take about 53 phone calls per day per doctor they work with,” says Anand. Coupled with the lack of patience of patients, it’s easy to see why healthcare workers are burning out (now more than ever). “People are just stretched to their very edges.”
WaiveTheWait’s flagship solution, called Automated Task Manager, fits within existing clinical electronic medical record (EMR) systems and takes on those routine tasks, like checking patients in, sending out documents and requisitions, automating follow up phone calls, etc. The idea is that, by easing the administrative burden, it frees up time for practice or clinic staff to tend to patients. The company’s second offering, Smart Waiting Room, hacks the traditional idea of a doctor’s office waiting room. The system sends people their wait and commute times so they know exactly when to come in. They can also check in from the comfort of home.
Anand can easily provide real-life examples of WaiveTheWait’s success: “With one of our clinical partners, we saved them about 140 hours of checkin time. This was one of the largest clinics in Peel region, and during the height of the pandemic, they had only one entrance to the clinic for safety. People would line up around the block,” says Anand. “Our system was able to remove this issue completely.”
“Our personal belief is that medical staff should be freed up to do medical things, not to try to fit in admin,” says Anand. “We wanted to fix that.” WaiveTheWait is already meeting (and exceeding) this mission. And to think, the company was only founded in 2020.
For many company founders, the impetus for innovation is found in the personal. This was the case for Connex- Health’s CEO, Medha Saraiya. “I started Connex because, as a nurse, I saw a specific gap in our healthcare system for healthcare that was paid out of pocket. The gap was clients having to pay exorbitant amounts for care, when personal support workers (PSWs) especially were sometimes paid less than minimum wage,” says Saraiya. To close that gap, ConnexHealth, and specifically a subsidiary called ConnexMatch, was created in 2018 to match healthcare users with healthcare providers. “We aimed to remove the overhead of an agency, which helped clients save money, and to help providers earn competitive rates.”
ConnexHealth and Saraiya, who still works as a nurse, didn’t stop there. The company focuses on simplifying healthcare solutions and providing access in a system where it can be complicated and frustrating to track down the care a patient requires. There are currently four parts to ConnexHealth: the original platform that connects users with providers; a pharmacy delivery solution to help pharmacies safely deliver medications to clients; an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) service that helps to provide therapy, respite, parent education and professional training for anyone who works with children with special needs; and lastly, the company is launching ConnexLearn, which is an online learning module to help PSWs gain microcredentials.
What’s especially exciting about ConnexHealth is that clients (right now Connex is only available in Ontario) can self-refer or they can be connected by others in their care network. “We have people who just find us online or through the groups we belong to,” says Saraiya, “and we have people who come from other practitioners. The latter is often how those looking for autism services come to us.” This means that Connex- Health can literally help anyone in the province. “We do our best to help people as much as possible, though healthcare in Canada can be tricky to navigate. We aim to be an extension of what is available through provincial healthcare, to help clients get the services they need for as long as they need them.”