Building The Next Global Health and Social Innovation Centre


Guest Blog by the Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, Elliot Fung 

In a pre-budget consultation with the Ontario Ministry of Finance on Tuesday, January 6, 2018, Elliot Fung, Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships at the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network was given three minutes to outline a few things for the Minister of Finance on what the local health system needs for consideration for next years’ provincial budget. The following is a summary of his presentation:

In partnership with clinicians and providers, we have made incredible progress to improve the health and wellbeing of local residents. This includes:

  • Recording some of the lowest emergency department wait times in the province for the sickest patients
  • World-class cardiac care outcomes (literally the best place in the province to receive cardiac care), and
  • Among the lowest hospital mortality ratios in Canada

The reality is, we’re not little Waterloo Wellington anymore. Our health system can be a booming economic driver in the province with a rapidly expanding agri-food/health/bio-medical/social innovation sector.

Given the right support and conditions for growth, this region could rival other health and bio-med innovation centres around the globe such as the Boston bio-medical corridor whose estimated economic impact of the 1,000 plus health and bio-med companies and 50,000 plus employees tops nine billion dollars. Imagine if we could do that right here.

What if you were having hip replacement surgery and a new technology were available to the surgeon to make the procedure so accurate and precise that it literally eliminated the need for follow-up surgery, greatly improving the patient experience and outcomes?

What if you could schedule and track a personal support worker right from your phone (like Uber)? What if someone could modify an X-ray machine to eliminate the need for a thoracic CT scan, improving wait times for other patients waiting for CT scans?

Our Chief Clinical Information Officer, Dr. Mohamed Alarakhia shared that it takes an astounding 13 years for best practices in mental health and opioid prescribing to have a meaningful impact on patients. We have digitized best practices and closed this gap to a few months. And, patients benefit by getting more appropriate medications. If we can spread this across the province, we can decrease ED visits and hospital admissions everywhere, and provide better service to our patients.

What if I told you that soon, parents in Waterloo Wellington can throw away those yellow child immunization records because we are digitizing them, saving all sorts of administrative time at school boards, public health and at home.

These and many more health innovations exist and have been invented in Waterloo Wellington and through partnerships with incredible organizations like Communitech, the Accelerator Centre and the GreenHouse, a student incubator at the University of Waterloo, we are actively seeking even more of these patient centred innovations to scale across the system.

If we are to continue to attract and retain the talent we need to compete in the global health innovation economy, we need a world class health system here in our community. But we won’t get there without increased support and investment.

First, we need to bring more speciality care home to our community. Many of our residents are still travelling too far for essential care. Second, we need to continue to invest in the spread and scale of the incredible innovations coming out of Waterloo Wellington, establishing this Region as a World Class Health Innovation Ecosystem.

The last point I’ll share, although there is much more to share and much more which is needed, is the need for increased investments in home and community care to support our aging population. We have a serious personal support worker (PSW) capacity issue in our community, and it will take the entire community working together to attract and retain talent to this vital profession. We have made some incredible partnerships with organizations like Conestoga College to build an enhanced curriculum for PSWs to better prepare them for more complex patients. But there’s much more we can and should do as a community, and with your help.

Elliot Fung blog photoThank you for your continued investments in our local health system.


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