Ontario health agency signs deal with Canadian startup to more easily screen and track COVID-19 patients

Provincial healthcare agency Ontario Health West has signed a procurement agreement with healthtech startup InputHealth, which will make it easier to track and screen patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“[The tool] has the potential of alleviating substantial bottlenecks in the system.”

Under the terms of the deal, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) and hospitals in the region are launching InputHealth’s interactive online tool, which is intended to help physicians and nurse practitioners provide guidance to their patients.

InputHealth’s tool will connect the healthcare system with the most at-need patients, helping people in London and Middlesex County navigate through the correct healthcare channels, in the right order and in the fastest time. As of March 22, MLHU has reported 12 cases of COVID-19 in London and Middlesex County. Ontario has confirmed over 400 cases, with Canada enlarge seeing 1371 positive cases of COVID-19.

“[The tool] has the potential of alleviating substantial bottlenecks in the system by diverting people to the right type of care,” said InputHealth president Dr. Puneet Seth, noting the stress COVID-19 has caused on Canada’s healthcare system – an issue that has been seen across Canada and globally.

InputHealth’s tool also aims to address the lack of effective triaging and live analytics, as well as the fragmentation of electronic medical records. The tool can track patients once they are diagnosed and self-isolating at home – potentially assessing whether someone is self-isolating or not. The idea is to help people go through the right processes and receive guidance based on their unique circumstances.

MLHU noted steps to be taken if something thinks they may have COVID-19: the Ministry’s self-assessment tool, TeleHealth Ontario, doctors’ offices, assessment centres, and local hospitals.

The procurement deal between InputHealth and Ontario Health was finalized in just over a week’s time. Typically, healthtech procurement processes can take years to reach completion. In this case, health authorities worked quickly with InputHealth to sign a deal, meaning the recent agreement could signal one of the fastest government procurements in Canadian history.

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Headquartered in Vancouver and Toronto, InputHealth was founded in 2011 and is led by Seth and CEO Dr. Damon Ramsey. Its technology is used by more than 500 healthcare organizations around the world.

“We have that ability to triage, deflect, [and] direct patients, so that we’re allocating finite healthcare resources intelligently,” Ramsey told BetaKit in a recent interview. “At the same time… we offer the ability for there to be a shared crisis record.”

“What we’re predicting is there’s a surge and increasing surge on healthcare resources,” he added. “So whatever we can do in an asynchronous, automated, alert based-fashion, we should be [doing].”

“We have never seen the velocity from which we’ve gone from conversation to service agreement.”
– Damon Ramsey, InputHealth

The procurement agreement came about after InputHealth put out a call on March 13, looking for partners to deploy its platform as a way to address the imminent need for virus tracking and surveillance.

One day later, the company’s leadership team held a webinar, which was attended by authorities from Ontario Health West, as well as provincial- and national-level health leadership.

“Since that webinar, there was an intense amount of momentum that was generated,” Seth, a practicing physician told BetaKit. “Across the board, healthcare organizations, health authorities, hospitals, clinics, were all really looking for the ability to solve these problems with innovative solutions. So we began fielding a lot of calls from different places.”

Healthcare professionals in London and Middlesex County quickly expressed interest, and InputHealth began speaking with Ontario Health West, the provincially regulated agency overseeing health care spending in Southwestern Ontario. At the same time, InputHealth began tweaking its platform to meet the specific needs of COVID-19 care, such as testing and self-isolation.

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Those talks led to MLHU announcing the launch of the tool on Monday. InputHealth CEO, Ramsey, called how quickly the deal was made unprecedented. “We’ve never seen things move this fast,” he stated.

“We have never seen the velocity from which we’ve gone from conversation to service agreement,” Ramsey added. “Hats off to the guys on the top that are facilitating this because it will make the difference between more suffering or less.”

InputHealth will not be the last case of a fast-tracked procurement process as health authorities across Canada are now operating under emergency procurement measures as governments at all levels take steps to assure healthcare systems have the resources they need.

This past week, the Government of Ontario introduced measures in order to remove traditional barriers to procurement. It called on local businesses to reach out if they are able to offer resources that can help fight COVID-19.

“Responding to COVID-19 is requiring all of us to think outside of the box and move quickly.”

“Responding to COVID-19 is requiring all of us to think outside of the box and move quickly,” said Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services Lisa Thompson. “By relying on status-quo procurement tools and techniques we will be unable to keep up with this rapidly evolving situation.”

Around the same time, the federal government put out a similar call, creating a dedicated team of procurement specialists to expedite decision making.

“It is tremendous to see the leadership in the community and across all sectors to launch an initiative so quickly that will help us actively manage the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting patients and healthcare providers,” said Bruce Lauckner, transitional regional lead (West) for Ontario Health.

RELATED: Canadian government refocuses innovation, procurement programs in fight against COVID-19

InputHealth’s platform is being initially implemented in London and Middlesex County, with MLHU noting that it will eventually be refined and then expanded across the West Region of Ontario Health. A timeline for expansion was not provided.

Anna Foat, a member of the Ontario government’s sub-committee for the Council of Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine, noted that since the procurement deal is signed with Ontario Health, it can be easily expanded to other organizations.

Since the surge on healthcare that has been caused by COVID-19, InputHealth has seen intense interest in its technology. The platform offers an end-to-end cloud-based solution that is built to handle tens of millions of requests in a way that is compliant with the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

Ramsey noted that InputHealth is currently talking to all “major provinces” in Canada and has seen inbound requests from smaller organizations as well.

“This online tool will improve patient outcomes and experience, help primary care make care decisions, reduce pressure on the healthcare system, and provide MLHU with critical data and insights needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of health and CEO at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. “Primary care is often asking for guidance based on the latest information and this tool will enable us to push out information to all doctors and nurse practitioners at the same time in real-time.”

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InputHealth’s platform works by integrating physicians into its network, allowing patients to connect virtually. More than 100 physicians in the London and Middlesex region signed up to be part of the project within 24 hours of a call being put out to the community.

“Unlike the provincial tools that are out there – instead of directing [people] directly to TeleHealth Ontario, or their family, doctors, or to 911 – InputHealth actually connects them, to access either an available clinician in the community … or their family doctor; knowing that they’ve been triaged effectively as higher risk,” said Ramsey.

The CEO also noted that InputHealth is seeing a unique moment of collaboration between healthtech software providers. He claimed that some of the startup’s traditional competitors have expressed that they are willing to work with InputHealth to distribute its software more broadly.

“I think we see this across the board in Canada, which is really, really, really inspiring,” he said. “There’s an acknowledgment that these are very unique times … and we’re not interested in the pettiness of software competition right now, we’re in the interest of saving lives.”

Image source Pixabay

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.