York helps transform Canada's health-care system

Mamdouh Shoukri at Connected Health and Wellness Project launch

Mamdouh Shoukri at Connected Health and Wellness Project launch

Canadians can now access their health information at their fingertips, thanks to a newly launched people-centred and technology-enabled system.

Led by York University, NexJ Systems Inc. and McMaster University, the Connected Health & Wellness Project saw 19 public, private and academic partners come together over two years to develop a platform that will transform Canada’s health-care system. As the world’s first cloud-based software that allows patients to self-manage their health care after they leave their doctor’s office, NexJ Connected Wellness is used by health-care professionals to educate patients at the point-of-care, deliver patient-friendly care plans, and ensure patients receive the support they need to eat healthy, exercise and take their medications as prescribed.

At an event on York’s Keele campus to celebrate the project’s completion May 26, Gary Goodyear, minister for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), praised the groundbreaking collaboration as having “completely revolutionized” health-care delivery in Canada and around the world.

From left, Harvey Skinner and Gary Goodyear unveil the website for the Connected Health and Wellness Project

From left: Harvey Skinner and Gary Goodyear unveil the website for the Connected Health and Wellness Project

“You nailed it,” Goodyear said. “It’s no secret that innovation is the key to success, not just for the health sector, but for all sectors. This is a fantastic step toward getting people to take care of their own health recovery.”

Launched in 2012, the Connected Health and Wellness Project was made possible through a $15.5-million financial contribution from FedDev Ontario. Partners of the project matched these funds with a further contribution of more than $20 million, for a total of about $38 million.

Calling it a “breakthrough effort” among the academic, health and technology sectors, Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president and vice-chancellor, said the project’s aim and scope were “truly visionary.”

“I have to say that the motivation for us to get involved with this project was what students today would call a ‘no-brainer,’ ” he said. “It aligns perfectly with our mandate of being Canada’s leading engaged university, working with public and private partners and the community.”

From left, Harvey Skinner, MP for York Centre Mark Adler, Gary Goodyear, William Tatham CEO of NexJ Systems Inc., Tracey Carr of McMaster University, Mamdouh Shoukri and Robert Hache

From left: Harvey Skinner, dean of York's Faculty of Health; MP for York Centre Mark Adler; Gary Goodyear, minister for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario; William Tatham, CEO of NexJ Systems Inc.; Tracey Carr, director of the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University; Mamdouh Shoukri, York's president and vice-chancellor; and Robert Hache, vice-president research and innovation at York

York researchers’ work to develop a training platform for health coaches, for example, will continue to create jobs for health-care professionals as well as for the University’s current and future students, Shoukri added.

Meanwhile, Harvey Skinner, dean of the Faculty of Health at York, is pursuing a second round of funding alongside IBM, NexJ Systems, McMaster University, University of Toronto and other partners. This new chapter will leverage FedDev’s past investments to create new technologies such as wearable sensors and ubiquitous computing to further support big-data initiatives to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

“We are going to take health-coach training local and global,” Skinner said, citing the billions of people who use mobile technology worldwide. “This will enable York’s expertise in psychology, kinesiology and health science to improve people’s lives by providing health coaching throughout the life cycle.”