Biomedical Zone gives startups place to validate in clinical settings
October 1, 2018
TORONTO – The Biomedical Zone– a unique partnership between Ryerson University and St. Michael’s Hospital – is Canada’s first physician-led, hospital-based health technology incubator, helping early-stage companies validate their solutions in a hospital setting.
ManagingLife (managinglife.com) is one of the Biomedical Zone’s emerging success stories – in 2011, the company launched a first-of-its-kind pain management app on Android. “The goal was to help people suffering from chronic pain to understand what they were experiencing, so they could better communicate with their doctors,” said Tahir Janmohamed, the company’s Founder and CEO.
By tracking how they felt in a daily journal, users of the app can better describe their pain to their doctors.
“Patients unable to properly describe their pain make it more difficult for their doctors to find a treatment that is effective at managing their pain. As a result, they often end up being prescribed an opioid to help them get some relief,” said Tahir.
“If you can provide doctors more accurate information about a patient’s pain and their response to treatment, you may be able to curb prescription of opioids through alternative treatments.”
In 2015, ManagingLife partnered with Toronto General Hospital (TGH) and built a remote monitoring portal. With a patient’s consent, data from the app can be seen remotely by a physician in real-time. According to the company, it’s the only pain management app with a remote monitoring capability for clinicians.
TGH’s Transitional Pain Service has used it for 1-1/2 years, registering 55 of its patients. The Manage My Pain project at Toronto General Hospital is funded by the Health Technologies Fund (HTF), which was created by the Government of Ontario’s Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist (OCHIS). It’s administered by the Ontario Centres of Excellence.
Starting in September, Toronto Western, Centenary Pain Clinic at Rouge Valley Hospital, and Iroquois Falls FHT at Anson General, will also begin deploying the application.
They will ask their patients to use the app to record what they’re feeling; view the reports during clinical visits and use the monitoring portal to take action if a patient goes off course from their normal pain dosage.
“For Iroquois Falls, it’s exciting because they’re a rural-based clinic and there’s less opportunity to physically interact with patients,” said Tahir. Rural communities tend to have higher opioid use.
The company hopes that patients using the app as part of their regular clinical care will see improved outcomes in terms of satisfaction with their pain management, and a reduction in opioid medication.
More recently, ManagingLife announced a partnership with Green Shield Canada (GSC). It’s the first health plan in Canada to offer a digital health tool to its members specifically for pain management. GSC began inviting eligible plan members to download the app starting in July, at no cost to the member.
Manage My Pain is used by over 30,000 patients across the globe, and it’s supported in seven different languages. The platform helps patients track their pain levels over time; records the meds they’ve tried for pain, along with the strength and dosage, and their effectiveness.
Trualta (www.trualta.com), another rising Biomedical Zone start-up, is a training and support tool for family members caring for aging loved ones at home. “It provides evidence-based, professional-level education and training tailored to the needs of a family caregiver,” said Jonathan Davis, company founder.
The average life expectancy of Canadians is now over 80 years, but many are living with chronic disease, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. As our healthcare system continues to promote aging-in-place for frail and elderly Canadians, there will be a greater reliance on family members to provide safe and competent care.
With his background in training, certification and continuing education for healthcare professionals, Davis looked at ways of adapting those skills to helping people care for family at home.
On average, family caregivers provide about 24-hours per week of care while juggling a career and family responsibilities. Despite being time constrained, family caregivers often ask for more information and education. “That’s why we make our content bite-sized and easy to consume. You can watch it on your mobile or desktop at a time that’s convenient for you,” said Davis.
These five-minute clips – available by way of e-learning, animation and video – can teach caregivers how to provide quality care to their loved ones at home. Topics include: managing difficult behaviors in patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia; wandering; safely transferring an elderly person from bed to chair, and lowering the risk of falls in the home.
To determine what content to include in the solution, the Biomedical Zone set up a focus group where the company could meet in person with a dozen discharge planners at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto.
“It provided additional perspective on what discharge and transition teams believe families need to stay out of the hospital and remain at home,” said Davis.
Trualta is free to use for all caregivers; the costs will be shared by the insurer and healthcare provider.
“We are building the business case for healthcare payers and providers to offer Trualta to families because the training and support resources will lead to reduced costs and improved outcomes,” said Davis.
Headquartered in downtown Toronto at St. Michael’s Hospital, the Biomedical Zone companies address significant healthcare challenges, with the goal of improving patient outcomes and quality assurance while lowering costs.
Through the Biomedical Zone’s concurrent clinical validation and business model refinement process, hospital-embedded start-ups are able to accurately identify and validate their value propositions.
“We feel that our unique model, which provides access to clinicians, patients, scientists and others, coupled with clinical validation and business development support, is a key driver in accelerating the success of our companies,” said Dr. Linda Maxwell, founder and managing director of the Biomedical Zone.
“Ultimately, it gets transformative technology and solutions into the hands of patients and providers.”