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The promise of health tech – WIHV’s Economic Club event

June 10, 2019

By Jordan Benadiba

On June 3, WIHV with the Economic Club of Canada hosted a panel discussion and lunch focused on the future of digital health in Canada. Moderated by WIHV’s director Dr. Sacha Bhatia, the panel included:

  • Sachin Aggarwal, CEO of Think Research;
  • Dr. Marzyeh Ghassemi, assistant professor at the University of Toronto and a Vector Institute faculty member; and 
  • Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, associate professor at the University of Toronto and the lead of the Centre for Global e-Health at UHN

Canada is an international leader in the field of health technology, producing system-disrupting advancements in digital health, virtual care and AI at an increasing pace. Yet, these cutting-edge technologies are not translating to expansive health system transformations or enhanced patient experience. Recognizing this reality, the panel discussion examined the challenges facing our healthcare system and the changes needed in order to implement lasting healthcare innovation for everyone.

To begin the discussion, Dr. Bhatia emphasized that as a result of digital technology, healthcare is increasingly a global conversation, one that involves private sector, public sector, policy leaders and academic scientists, as well as patients and their families. On the topic of empowering patients, Dr. Joseph Cafazzo stressed that the increasing access to personal medical data will be a key step forward, as patients want to be enabled by their own information. He noted that in many other countries, patients have full access to their medical records.

Turning to the issue of implementation across the health system, Dr. Marzyeh Ghassemi, discussed the importance of culture and vision, stressing the need for Canadian researchers and others in the digital health space to take on a greater leadership role.

Each panelist agreed that diverse data sets are particularly important as we look to implement digital health more broadly. Sachin Aggarwal highlighted both Canada’s diverse data sets and centralized health system as important assets moving forward. On the roles of the public and private sectors in digital health, panelists stressed that it was not an ‘either or’ proposition and that in order to progress, increased collaboration will be critical.  

Economic Club of Canada
From left to right, Dr. Sacha Bhatia, Dr. Marzyeh Ghassemi, Dr. Joseph Cafazzo and Sachin Aggarwal
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