The path from idea to innovation adoption is traditionally not a straight line and can be hard to navigate. Ontario’s new Innovation Brokers aim to help innovators identify opportunities for support, refine their business models, and a validation test site in a research hospital, and navigate other challenges along their path to successful adoption.
Announced by Ministers Eric Hoskins and Reza Moridi in April 2017, Innovation Brokers are a new initiative of the Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist. “Our goal is to use the power of technology to deliver on the needs and goals of patients and the health system,” said William Charnetski, Ontario’s Chief Health Innovation Strategist. “The Brokers provide a necessary link between those who need to work together to accelerate the spread of effective health innovations so as to benefit patients, the healthcare system, and Ontario’s economy.”
The mandate of the Innovation Brokers is to work with innovators and health service providers to bolster innovation across the province. This means helping remove barriers so that new innovative technologies and processes get into our health care system and to patients faster. The brokers also link growing Ontario-based health technology companies with opportunities, key players, and supports. The aim is to create and enhance the connections and collaboration that help ensure success. To achieve these goals, the Brokers also work with health system partners to improve access to sources of support, make it easier to identify test sites for gathering feedback from patients and clinicians, and offer guidance and mentorship in moving innovative ideas from development to adoption and diffusion in Ontario’s health system.
The first three Brokers have distinct but complementary roles. For instance, Azimuth Health Group recently launched @3iOntario, a web service that provides weekly updates of opportunities that innovators and innovation champions can take advantage of to advance their best ideas for improving health and healthcare. The service also shares requests for comment on policy directions and recent publications related to health innovation. It focuses on health technology, including digital health solutions and medical devices.
“Large companies have dedicated staff who seek support for their research and development, commercialization, and growth; small ones rarely do,” said Jennifer Zelmer, President of Azimuth Health Group. “We’re already hearing from innovators who are taking advantage of opportunities that they learned about via @3iOntario to accelerate their work on real-world solutions that improve health, care, and value.”
With expertise in clinical adoption of health technologies, Zelmer and her team will also be building innovation capacity within the health system by mentoring change agents on such topics as value-based procurement and understanding and delivering a social return on investment.
“Ontario innovations – from electric wheelchairs to pacemakers – have had profound effects on health and healthcare worldwide,” noted Zelmer. “Looking ahead, scale and spread of effective innovations will continue to be key to improving patient outcomes and to the future sustainability of the health system. As brokers, we aim to work with partners across Ontario and beyond to accelerate this process.”
The second Innovation Broker is Martin Gurbin, Vice President and Founder, Sunnybrook International. With strong international business expertise, he will be working with health technology innovators to define and communicate their value proposition to Ontario-based health service providers. Gurbin’s focus is on mentoring and guiding health tech innovators, large and small, on business strategy and health system navigation. Martin conducts half-day sessions with companies and offers deeper support and mentoring to a handful of ready-to-scale innovations. In his short time as Innovation Broker, Gurbin has connected numerous companies that have innovative, promising products and services directly to leaders within provider environments, with the aim of shortening sales cycles and achieving faster adoption.
“I’ve always been a believer that true discovery and spotting the potential for bona fide innovation occurs when you are working the interface of a wide range of disciplines, professionals, and institutions,” said Gurbin. “Serving as an Innovation Broker is a rare opportunity to work at the interface of the entire health and life sciences industry. Even at this early stage, it feels like we are making a difference by helping companies to refine their value proposition, to get noticed, and to translate their opportunities into a reality. The potential benefits for patients and the health system are what makes this work even more exciting.”
Future plans include building a network of Ontario healthcare providers beyond the teaching hospitals that are keen to serve as early receptors for health tech innovations. “This is an incredible opportunity to help stimulate and drive the formation of networks that can become the receptors for new technologies that will impact health and wealth,” noted Gurbin.
On behalf of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals, the third Innovation Broker – the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO) – is helping to clear the path to market by pulling innovation into Ontario’s health system. They have already developed and shared a list of critical problems requiring innovative solutions to provide market intelligence on the needs of the health system. CAHO has also launched a service to connect innovators to Ontario’s 23 research hospitals to help find real-life validation test sites.
“As an Innovation Broker, we provide the industry with streamlined and simultaneous access to Ontario’s 23 research hospitals,” said Rena Menaker, Director of Policy and Member Relations and Lead of CAHO’s Innovation Broker Task Force. “By knocking on one door, innovators have faster access to validation test sites and, in time, faster adoption into some of the most advanced hospitals in the province.”
Future plans include developing the ability to broker connections with hospitals that are ready to adopt specific innovations, working with them to develop implementation plans for efficient adoption, and building capacity for innovation adoption by creating standard procedures among CAHO hospitals that enable clarity, transparency, and timeliness for innovators.
“Through CAHO’s Innovation Broker role, we are building capacity to effectively pull innovations into CAHO hospitals, while providing the industry with greater clarity and transparency on market needs, and on our processes and timelines,” said Menaker. “While already adding value for innovators today, this work is also laying the foundations to help clear the path to market for innovators tomorrow. As a result, it is our hope that industry will have a greater opportunity to build innovation-focused partnerships with CAHO hospitals and accelerate validation and adoption of innovations that meet the needs of patients in the future.”
The Innovation Brokers are supported by the Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Office serves as a catalyst to help accelerate health technology commercialization efforts and works on behalf of health technology innovators to remove barriers and improve access to Ontario’s health care system. Its goal is to grow businesses and build a health innovation ecosystem. Specifically, the Office aims to drive collaboration across the health care system to accelerate the adoption and diffusion of new innovative health technologies and processes to improve patient outcomes, add value to the system, and create jobs in Ontario.
To subscribe to the free @3iOntario weekly digest of opportunities available to health innovators and innovation champions in Ontario, visit http://www.azimuthhealthgroup.ca/3iOntario
To learn more about CAHO’s role as an Innovation Broker, visit http://caho-hospitals.com/partnerships/innovation-broker/
For general information about the Broker service, visit http://health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/ochis/innovation-brokers.aspx
Read more biotech news and features on the Biotechnology Focus Aug/Sep 2017 Digital Edition
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