Canada’s first smart hospital leverages digital devices to enhance emergency preparedness

By Zeeshan Ahmed and Vaso Charitsis

Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, Canada’s first smart hospital and the first net new hospital in Ontario in more than 30 years, has taken emergency preparedness to the next level.

In February 2021, Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital implemented a digital platform for clinical communication and workflow, to become the first Canadian hospital to fully integrate its overhead communication system with smartphones using a mobile application.


The smartphones allow staff to respond to emergency codes and use voice command to receive and make calls.  Additionally, staff can send secured text messages and access critical information on touch screens helping direct them to where they are needed most in an emergency or crisis.

“The digital platform prioritizes incoming communications using real time alerts that are secure, providing the situational awareness needed to make timely and informed decisions,” said Felix Zhang, Chief Technology Officer at Mackenzie Health.  “The platform enables the right person to receive the right information at the right time, and to know which information is important, like when a cardiac arrest code is activated, it not only alerts staff of a medical emergency, but the hands-free capabilities let staff provide hands-on patient care improving patient outcomes.”

In the months leading up to the opening of Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, the Risk Management team co-ordinated more than 10 full-scale training exercises during a period of three months, replicating real-life scenarios using the handheld devices to activate codes. Full-scale exercises were designed to validate emergency plans and preparedness and test the smartphones and the communication platform. The exercises and drills were unannounced and performed under varying and nonideal conditions, such as different times of day, during absence of key staff and originated in different areas of the hospital, including the emergency department.

“Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital staff and physicians had the unique opportunity to experience full-scale exercises using the smartphones in their natural setting before opening our doors as a full-service community hospital,” said Mary-Agnes Wilson, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nurse Executive.  “This opportunity gave each group the time needed to identify any deficiencies in emergency preparedness processes so that protocols could be enhanced and test the new smartphones to ensure the right information could be transmitted instantly, securely and efficiently.”

Several scenarios were tested, with the largest exercise involving more than 50 participants, and included multiple external emergency responders.  Each full-scale exercise lasted more than three hours.

“We know emergencies can escalate in scope and severity quickly impacting hospital resources and threatening the vital and often lifesaving care we provide to patients and the community,” said Zeeshan Ahmed, Manager of Enterprise Risk at Mackenzie Health. “So, when every second counts, technology is helping to connect teams to respond faster and more effectively.”

Smart technology helps reduce response times in emergencies, especially when it is a life-or-death situation. Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital is paving the way for smart technology to be added to all levels of health care and service delivery, no matter the circumstances.

Zeeshan Ahmed is Manager of Enterprise Risk at Mackenzie Health and Vaso Charitsis is a Senior Communications Consultant at Mackenzie Health.