Five healthcare innovations to get excited about

From mobile health to more efficient testing, see the nation-wide advances making the system work better for you.

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With Canada’s aging population, the fact that about 40 percent of women could develop cancer in their lifetimes, and that heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death in women, it’s likely that many Canadian women will require medical treatment at some point in their lives.

Given this critical need, hospitals in Canada are quickly becoming the most innovative in the world. Many are being designed to provide patients with access to faster and better-quality care while others allow patients to take more control over their own health care needs. Here are 10 innovations you can get excited about:

1. Mobile health care
Smartphones and tablets make it easy to monitor health care information on the go. Count calories, track physical activity, calculate body mass index (BMI) and ask medical questions.

Try it for yourself: Bant is an app developed in Canada that simplifies diabetes management for patients.

2. Social media
Used by patients to share health care information, new support sites let people connect with others undergoing similar experiences, to share advice and provide comfort and encouragement.

Try it for yourself:
CancerConnection.ca allows anyone dealing, either directly or indirectly, with cancer to share their experiences and build supportive relationships.

DiabetesCareCommunity.ca is Canada’s first social network and online resource for families and friends of people with diabetes.

YoungAdultCancerCanada.ca is an online information and support resource that uses social media to connect young people diagnosed with cancer.

3. Bedside technology
Hospital rooms are going high-tech with new interactive patient portals providing communication, education and entertainment—patients can contact nurses and order meals, learn more about their condition, as well as access TV shows and movies.

Toronto’s Humber River Hospital, opening in 2015, will be North America’s first fully digital hospital. Using the latest technologies to put patients and families at the centre of their care, the hospital will have online registration and electronic health records and bedside room-environment control.

4. Point-of-care diagnostics
Lab tests are critical in diagnosis and monitoring of patients with acute and chronic diseases. These tests are largely done in central laboratories in hospitals or reference laboratories. Advances in point-of-care testing (PoCT) technologies allow for some of the routine tests (such as blood sugar and certain other critical tests) to be run outside of the laboratory quickly, often with just a few drops of the patient’s blood. These tests offer the convenience of fast and reliable results. PoCT programs allow for faster assessment and monitoring of patients, and improve patient care.

National Research Corporation Canada has developed a Point-of-Care app that allows health care leaders making hospital rounds to deliver real-time data and reports to other departments so patient issues are resolved quickly. This leads to a better experience for patients.

5. Virtual visits
Remote monitoring of patients allows for virtual visits to be conducted by teleconference or video conference – a specialist from across the country can examine a patient and give a diagnosis, saving the time and high cost of travel.

Try it yourself: Ontario Telemedicine Network is the world leader in telemedicine, using innovative technology to streamline health care processes, while also expanding the way knowledge is shared and how the medical community interacts with each other and with patients.

Warren DiClemente is the chief operating officer and vice president of educational services overseeing the production of HealthAchieve for the Ontario Hospital Association.