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Hacking Health Ottawa: Behind the Scenes

Originally published by Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) on Medium.

Since March, there hasn’t been much rest for the partners in an initiative to use technological change to improve healthcare. Over the innovation platform’s four events, Hacking Health Ottawa, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Impact HUB Ottawa, and volunteers from IBM have brought together doctors, developers, designers, policy analysts, entrepreneurs, and healthcare administrators to ask the question: how can we use technology to make healthcare better?.

There is remarkable enthusiasm for answering this question in Ottawa. Since March, more than 200 people attended these events. Hacking Health Ottawa doubled its number of volunteers. Conversations continued longer than the events themselves.

At each event, attendees considered tough questions like: What problems do people face when they interact with the healthcare system? How can technology disrupt healthcare? How can design thinking find new solutions to old problems?

On July 4th, William Charnetski, Ontario’s Chief Health Innovation Strategist, visited CHEO to discuss these questions and see the innovation happening at CHEO.

This was the same day as the launch of Ontario’s $20 million Health Technologies Fund (HTF), which will support the development of made-in-Ontario health technologies. The HTF is a great opportunity for health technology entrepreneurs as they develop prototypes, conduct market evaluations, and ultimately diffuse such innovations into the Ontario health system.

Investing in innovative made-in-Ontario health technology projects will help improve patient experience and transform our health care system,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, at the launch of HTF.

It is an exciting time to be in healthcare innovation. That excitement was in the room when Hacking Health Ottawa, CHEO, the Hub, and volunteers from IBM recently created a roadmap for the next coming months of the innovation platform.

Irene Pylypenko, Dan Del Balso, and Isabelle Lusseyran from Hacking Health Montreal attended and lent their insights to the Ottawa team. With a facilitated design thinking session and the help of many post-it notes, the team mapped the steps that will lead to a design challenge where teams will develop prototypes for use at CHEO.

Pylypenko, Del Balso and Lusseyran brought with them the wealth of experience of running hackathons in Montreal, as well as the lessons they have learned from other Hacking Health events in countries such as Italy and the Netherlands.

This international perspective has been part of the initiative from the start. Hacking Health Ottawa is part of a global movement active in more than 30 cities. Similarly, Hub Ottawa is a member of the diverse Hub network, with locations in more than 80 cities around the world.

“Being part of the global Impact Hub network allows us to practice what we often hear being preached:think global, act local,” says James Chan, Director of Civic Innovation at the Hub. “We also share this global/local dynamic with the Hacking Health movement, which has grown into a network of locally-run chapters in cities around the world. Our challenge and opportunity is to leverage our global resources so we do not have to reinvent the wheel, while recognizing Ottawa’s unique context and realizing there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

Ottawa is unique because it is home to embassies, representatives, and diaspora from all over the world, as well as entrepreneurs, organizations and institutions doing important work abroad, says Chan. He also points out this initiative is part of an exciting trend of such global/local initiatives popping up in Ottawa, including Creative Mornings, TEDx, and Tech4Good.

These factors provide a fertile ecosystem for the local community to do something great for healthcare in Ottawa, while relying on global networks. With Hacking Health and the Hub’s reach into dynamic international communities, plus CHEO’s expertise in health and IBM’s expertise in technology, as well as the enthusiasm of the 200 people who have been involved so far, there’s no doubt this initiative is going to take the health and tech sectors by storm.

It’s only a matter of time before an idea from the innovation platform becomes a project that applies to opportunities like the HTF.

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Hacking Health OttawaHacking Health Ottawa: Behind the Scenes