Forum fosters digital health collaboration

17 February 2015

“Collaboration” was the word on everyone’s mind as a diverse, cross-sectoral crowd gathered in Vancouver on February 5 to explore innovations in digital health research.

A one-day forum brought together more than 130 participants – representing research, health care, industry, government, and lived experience – to start a dialogue about digital health needs and opportunities in BC and the Yukon.

Convened by MSFHR in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Yukon government, the inter-regional workshop aimed to accelerate digital solutions to some of health care’s most pressing challenges by connecting individuals outside their typical networks.

Based on the buzz in the room and participant feedback, the goal was more than met.

“The experience today was fantastic,” said Simon Fraser University professor Dr. Ryan D’Arcy. “It was a huge opportunity to connect with people, to find out that people are facing similar problems to what we’re facing. To get ideas around solutions, and to make long-term relationships so that we know we can actually start to implement technology solutions rapidly.”



The forum was convened to inform applications to CIHR’s eHealth Innovations Partnership Program (eHIPP). This funding opportunity aims to support partnerships between Canadian technology companies and “innovation communities” to develop innovative e-health solutions that deliver real-world health care value.

The expectation is that collaborative, inter-sectoral teams will address gaps and inefficiencies in the care of two priority populations: youth with mental health conditions and seniors with complex care needs.

For experts on each issue, the forum offered a chance to learn something new and find areas of overlap.

“It was very useful to meet the seniors and the youth, because there were some things I learned from the speakers on the youth sector that I would not have known or have thought about,” said Dr. Gloria Gutman, a professor of gerontology at Simon Fraser University.

In addition to the traditional sectors involved in conversations around research and policy, another perspective was well-represented: the voices of patients and individuals with lived experience.

Patient Voices Network volunteer Colleen McGavin spoke on behalf of seniors, while two youth advocates spoke from the perspective of experience living with mental health conditions.

For many in the crowd, the inclusion of these voices enriched the conversation.

“The most important area today, I think, that we explored is how do we engage patients and the public?” said Dr. Kendall Ho, director of the University of British Columbia’s eHealth Strategy Office. “How do we all get inspired by the living experience, by their journeys?”

“It’s just really valuable, because it brings a different perspective, and I think when we reach out to other age groups, or most especially if we’re talking about the issues that affect them directly, then we need to involve them,” said Andrea Paquette, executive director of the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia.

The forum provided a prime opportunity for MSFHR to fulfill its role as a convenor of health research planning and action in British Columbia.

“I want to thank the Michael Smith Foundation for bringing people together today from all across the sectors,” said Paquette. “People with lived experience, industry, researchers – I have been to a lot of conferences and I haven’t seen as much diversity as I have today.”