Corp Comm Connects

York Region can become leader in medical innovation
June 25, 2015
By Chris Traber

A simple tale about a young man and his dying father aptly distilled the highly complex agenda at the fifth annual MedEdge Summit in Richmond Hill.

Keynote speaker Leerom Segal, co-founder and CEO of Klick Health and co-author of the New York Times best selling The Decoded Company, opened his mesmerizing address with a graphic of a cancer cell.

The image depicted the stage four pancreatic cancer with which his father had been diagnosed.

A legion of medical experts all said there was no hope.

Undaunted, the lead of the world’s largest independent digital health agency explored alternative treatments for his dad. He successfully enrolled the afflicted father in a series of new clinical trials.

While the inevitable occurred, the man’s life was extended.

“Because of those trials, we got an extra 1,000 dinners with our father,” Segal told a full audience last week at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. “That was our gift from medical innovation.”

The poignant story struck a chord at the summit, a catalyst for advancing technology, ideas, connections and innovation into commercial success in York Region and the GTA’s life sciences sector.

Sharing lessons learned from his extensive and unconventional entrepreneurial experience in the health and technology sectors, the 36-year-old Israel-born Canadian said most major inventions trace their origins to the turn of the 20th century.

“Changes since have been fast and data is super cheap,” he said. “Technology has evolved. Technology management has not.”

Citing recent epic fails, including Blockbuster, Borders and Kodak, companies that don’t engage their employees and customers and don’t harness technology, will be left in the dust, he said.

Segal’s book, subtitled Know Your People Better Than You Know Your Customers, is the first tome to discuss data in the workplace, unveiling how industry-leading companies are decoding employee work data in the same way Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and other apps decode customer data to personalize, simplify and enhance the user experience.

“One of the deepest human emotions is feeling that you are being understood,” Segal said. “Yet, research states that 70 per cent of people are disengaged at work and many of them work to undermine the mission of the company.”

Mining employee data for positive outcomes is transferable to any field, he said, suggesting decoded companies can use data to customize the employee experience. The process boosts emotional engagement, mastery of new skills and optimizes the team’s potential and dynamic. The benefits include increased agility, better decisions, decreased bureaucracy and the ability to predict problems before they occur.

The summit, presented by the Town of Richmond Hill, ventureLAB and York Region, with the support of numerous sponsors and collaborators, has grown exponentially in five years, VentureLAB president and CEO Jeremy Laurin said.

York Region is uniquely positioned in the MedTech environment as the place for clinical and technical innovation with a unique and collaborative life sciences ecosystem that provides ample market opportunities to bring effective and cost-efficient solutions to market, he said.

Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow applauded summit organizers, saying the gathering encourages important networking and collaboration opportunities, all of which lead to overcoming challenges in medicine.

Medical technology and devices contribute significantly to our economy, Richmond Hill MPP and Research and Innovation Minister Reza Moridi said. The life science sectors infuse some $40 billion into Ontario’s financial system, added Moridi, who also serves as training, colleges and universities minister.

Canada has introduced pacemaker, artificial heart and radiation therapy to the world and some 8,800 annual Ontario university graduates continue to bring innovation and invention to market, he said.

Moridi predicts York Region will become the medical device capital of Canada. York University’s new Markham campus will add to our talent pool, he said.

Additional erudite opinion addressed the summit’s Disruptive Innovations in Health Care theme.

St. Elizabeth Health president and CEO Shirlee Sharkey discussed health innovation in Ontario, citing recommendations made by the Ontario Health Innovation Council.

Ontario Centres of Excellence was represented by John Fielding.

Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital chief nursing executive and chief practice officer Tiziana Rivera moderated a panel on solving the challenge of implementing innovations in the health care system.

Jane Gertner, ventureLab’s entrepreneur in residence, moderated a panel on The Internet of health care: things to come.

Segal encouraged attendees to challenge their thinking, underscoring the advice with a quote from Albert Einstein, who said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”