Students in the Department of Computer Science's Innovation Lab (DCSIL) present their software-based solutions developed as part of the 2015 Faculty of Arts & Science Summer Entrepreneurship Program.
Have you noticed anything in the health-care system you think could be improved? The organizers behind the new HealthEDGE initiative want to hear from you. They’re aiming to improve health care delivery with student ingenuity – to devise smarter, more efficient and more effective health solutions, while reducing delivery costs. Get involved by submitting your healthcare challenge.
Healthcare is expensive – in Canada we spend over 10 per cent of our GDP on it. While much of that expense goes to world-class, life-saving equipment and expertise, a lot of it also leaks out through gaps in efficiency.
This new collaboration between Toronto-area hospitals, health-care professionals, industry leaders including IBM and Autodesk, and the University of Toronto’s innovation incubators in medicine, engineering and computer science, wants to help fill those gaps. HealthEDGE is designed to tackle undue healthcare costs and inefficiency gaps using student cleverness and innovative thinking.
The first round of this initiative launches this fall with an open call for healthcare problems – if you have observed challenges in the healthcare system that could be resolved in a better, smarter or cheaper way, submit your challenge. A panel of industry experts will then curate the submissions and channel them to teams of students with expertise in a variety of disciplines. Leading the process are industry experts and faculty members from the Faculty of Medicine’s Health Innovation HUB (H2i), The Entrepreneurship Hatchery and the Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL), many of whom have invented innovative medical technologies and developed successful start-ups themselves. This ambitious initiative unites healthcare problems with talented experts and creative minds to bring about edgy innovation and improve care.
“Our students are brimming with specialized skills and new ideas,” says Ravin Balakrishnan, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “We’re always on the lookout for projects where they can really make an impact."
Supporting student-led innovation and applying technology in the healthcare field are both big areas of focus for industry partner IBM. "Students have so much to offer, and this initiative gives them the opportunity to shape the future, as healthcare explores the power of cognitive computing to improve outcomes,” says Barry Burk, IBM’s vice-president for the healthcare industry.
“We have an aging population and skyrocketing costs in the healthcare system,” says Professor Joseph Ferenbok, co-director of H2i. “On the other hand, we have students with lots of skills and expertise, who are on the lookout for challenging problems to solve. We have the ingredients to make a real difference – we just have to bring them together.”
Mario Grech, director and co-founder of DCSIL, stresses the importance of subject-area expertise for a real understanding of problems. When he worked with students on the IBM Watson Cognitive Computing Competition earlier this year – their legal research assistant application led to a second-place finish – they sought extensive input from experts in the legal field. “Successful software development needs subject experts to help define the problem and ensure it’s an end product the user needs,” he says, noting DCSIL organizes multidisciplinary teams. The partnership with health-care providers will give students real-life challenges and access to domain expertise that could make a big difference to the health system.
When it comes to healthcare, we are all subject-matter experts to varying degrees. Sometimes a patient or family member of a patient might notice inefficiencies that practitioners can’t see. We’re all invested in the system – and many of us have compliments or complaints. So if you’ve seen something that needs fixing, and could bring about efficiency by improving outcomes and reducing costs – submit your challenge now.