Mackenzie Health further develops innovation unit

Altaf StationwalaRICHMOND HILL, Ont. – Mackenzie Health has announced the second phase of its Innovation Unit, a living laboratory with 34-beds that is about to implement and test smart messaging and clinical alerting, in conjunction with partners BlackBerry, Cisco and Thoughtwire.

In the first phase of the project, announced in 2014, the hospital installed and tested technologies such as smart beds that could determine whether a patient was leaving the bed, smart badges that can determine the location of nurses and other clinicians, and a hand-washing tracking system to deliver safer patient care.

Phase two of the project, which goes live in August, focuses on a mobile clinical messaging and alerting system that will tie medical devices, such as bedside pumps and monitors, to caregivers, while using intelligent rules to optimize the routing of messages among doctors and nurses and to also prevent ‘alert fatigue.’

Caregivers will be able to quickly assess whether or not the system is useful, and to suggest improvements; as well, the project will benefit from a formal study by academic researchers at the University of Toronto.

The innovative hospital also announced the launch of its Mackenzie Innovation Institute (Mi2 – pronounced Mi squared), which will manage the Innovation Unit.

Mackenzie Health president Altaf Stationwala (pictured), speaking at an event in June, said that Mi2 and the Innovation Unit aim to improve the quality of care and to ensure the hospital is making the right technology investments.

In the past, he said, “We were not feeling that we were making the best technology investments. We introduced all kinds of technology, but our nurses weren’t able to spend the time they needed with patients.”

Instead, they were doing documentation, running from one part of the hospital to another to check the readings from devices or to look up information at workstations. They also had trouble finding fellow clinicians when they needed them.

Mackenzie Health’s worries about workflow and technology investments were brought to the fore when it started planning its new hospital. “Eighty percent of the rooms in the new hospital will be private rooms, for better infection control,” said Stationwala, adding that the distances that doctors and nurses travel to reach patients will also increase. “That means our staff will have to be on rollerblades to deliver care,” he quipped.

Hospital management realized that better communications could solve the problem, and decided to test the solutions. “It’s a practical solution to provide information where the nurses and doctors are, and to provide it on their phones,” said Stationwala.

The new system will bring that information right to the BlackBerry smartphones used by the nurses and other caregivers. BlackBerry phones were chosen because of the high degree of security they offer.

Mike Monteith, CEO of Toronto-based Thoughtwire, pointed out that clinicians will not only receive smart alerts on their phones, but they will have access to the electronic records of patients. Moreover, the system will support real-time location services, making people and equipment easier to find.

The knowledge gained from the project will be used not only in the rest of the hospital, but also at the new facility Mackenzie Health is building in Vaughan — scheduled to open in 2019.

As well, hospital leaders hope the knowledge will be disseminated to other facilities across Canada.

“We’re taking the lessons learned from this project and providing them to the architects working on the new hospital,” said Tiziana Rivera, Chief Nursing Executive. “The design of the new hospital in Vaughan will benefit from what we’ve learned here about technology and workflow.”

Rivera added that the hospital will be sharing the information with all other hospitals who are interested. “It’s publicly funded research,” she said. “It should be used to benefit everyone.”

CIO Dianne Salois-Swallow added that the whole project is being conducted in a spirit of open collaboration and cooperation. “We see the companies who are working with us as more than vendors, they are our partners.”

The Innovation Unit Phase Two project is one of five healthcare-related information communication technology projects which received funding from Ontario Centres of Excellence through its AdvancingHealth program. AdvancingHealth allows the public and private sectors to work together to build ground-breaking products and services to increase the quality of patient care and create a more efficient and sustainable healthcare system.

About Mackenzie Health
Mackenzie Health is a dynamic regional healthcare provider, serving a population of over half a million people across Southwest York Region and beyond. Nationally recognized for its commitment to safety and quality patient care, Mackenzie Health is a healthcare leader with a variety of academic partners. In 2019, Mackenzie Health will complete construction of the new Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital and will continue to operate Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital. Mackenzie Health also offers care through a network of community-based services in Richmond Hill, Vaughan and surrounding communities. Mackenzie Health’s vision is to create a world-class health experience. This means delivering quality, compassionate and timely patient-centered care. It means that everything we do is focused on our patients and community. Mackenzie Health launched the Innovation Unit project in 2014 and has been working with a variety of partners to refine and advance the project. A first in Mackenzie Health’s Innovation Journey, the Innovation Unit is an acute care medical unit that has been transformed into a living and breathing laboratory for innovations to be developed, evaluated and adopted by other patient care units at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, as well as the new Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital and at the health system level. For more information, please visit

About Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc.
Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario’s global competitiveness. OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario’s industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, domestic and foreign investors, and government ministries. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices, innovation, entrepreneurship and research, OCE invests in such areas as advanced health, information and communications technology, digital media, advanced materials and manufacturing, agri-food, aerospace, transportation, energy, and the environment including water and mining. OCE is a key partner in delivering Ontario’s Innovation Agenda as a member of the province’s Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), which helps Ontario based entrepreneurs and industry rapidly grow their company and create jobs. Learn more at For more information, please visit

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