A year of ‘Innovation Sensation’ at academic health care organizations

Research and innovation make good news stories that appear in national print media every day. When we look across some of these stories, we see many ways in which health research and innovation impact the everyday lives of Canadians.

To begin exploring this issue, in 2011, the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (ACAHO) reviewed a small snapshot of over 260 news stories about research and innovation from Canada’s 40+ academic health care organizations. These news stories came from the Globe & Mail and the Canada Health Reference Guide, and make up a tiny sample of the many national research and innovation stories and news sources.

However, even with this modest starting point we learn some interesting things. In the first two quarters of 2011, the top 10 subject areas were: 1. Cancer; 2. Brain Science; 3. Mental Health; 4. Health Systems; 5. Aging; 6. Women & Children; 7. Bone & Joint Health; 8. Respiratory conditions; 9. Technology; and 10. A small group of 13 other subjects.

In addition, while some of the stories reflect the potential of research and innovation for the future, especially those about philanthropic endeavours and the newest scientific discoveries – over 80 per cent of the stories were about how research and innovation are having an impact right now. These varying impacts are seen across six types of stories that we identified:

1.    Helping to maintain and improve health: These include stories that focus on how to maintain and improve health: For example, the effect of more people learning CPR; how to ‘fall-proof’ a home; the safety of medications for premature infants; and considerations in the selection of headgear for children in sports.
2.    New treatments and diagnostics: These stories showcase the use of new drugs, treatments or diagnostics. For example, a new guideline to reduce pain medication dependence, the world’s first intubation robot, and a new app for diabetes care.
3.    Explaining the science to be used in the future: Many stories announced scientific discoveries that pave the way for next steps in treatment or diagnoses. For example, one story linked the consumption of green vegetables to changes in genetic makeup and heart disease; another noted that a particular combination of genes increased lung cancer in light smokers. They illustrate an essential pipeline from bench to bedside.
4.    Modernizing the health system: These stories described methods and technologies for modernizing our health system. They included unique approaches to end of life care, how a virtual hospital works, the reinvention of the house call, a health care bus for mobile care in rural regions, among others.
5.    Identifying public health issues and risks: A number of stories leverage the opportunity to solve a public health issue or risk by bringing research to the forefront – such as how research in concussions is changing sport, the stigma of mental illness, the importance of screening for hearing loss in children, among others.
6.    Public support for health research: Finally, some stories focused on the meaning of research and innovation to individual patients, families and members of the public. These are human interest stories or substantial and at times record-breaking philanthropic initiatives in support of health research.

“Looking through a small snapshot of media stories gives us many tangible examples of how health research and innovation are touching the lives of Canadians. It also underscores the unique role that Canada’s Academic Healthcare Organizations play in the discovery and application of new technologies”, says Mr. Glenn Brimacombe, President & CEO of ACAHO. ACAHO will explore this issue further in the coming year.

Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (members of ACAHO)

Eastern Health, St. John’s
IWK Health Centre, Halifax
Capital District Health Authority, Halifax
Horizon Health Network, Miramichi
Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Montréal
Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, Montréal
Hôpital Sainte-Justine, Montréal
Association québecoise d’établissements de santé et de services sociaux  (associate)
Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke
Centre hospitalier de L’Université de Montréal, Montréal
McGill University Health Centre, Montréal
Institut de cardiologie de Montréal, Montréal
Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, Montréal
London Health Sciences Centre, London
University Health Network, Toronto
Bruyère Continuing Care, Ottawa
Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto
St. Joseph’s Health Care, London
The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa
Montfort Hospital, Ottawa
Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto
Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa
Baycrest, Toronto
St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton
Kingston General Hospital, Kingston
Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Ottawa
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto
Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Winnipeg
Saskatoon Health Region, Saskatoon
Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, Regina
Alberta Health Services, Edmonton
Provincial Health Services Authority, Vancouver
Providence Health Care, Vancouver
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Vancouver
Vancouver Island Health Authority, Victoria

*With special thanks to Adrienne Vienneau and Dr. Martin Osmond at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario for their contributions to this article.