It’s not only a good thing to do, it is also a big business. The Canadian population aged 65 and older is doubling over a 25-year period that continues through 2036.
So support for Canadian companies that are launching new technologies to boost the personal autonomy, cognitive health and digital connectivity of seniors is coming from entrepreneurially minded students, government funding agencies and not-for-profit organizations across the country and around the globe.
One of example of that support for technical development and product commercialization has been recently announced to launch up to 100 projects being developed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Canada for national and global market adoption.
That could bring new products and services to market very quickly, delivering for example a smartphone app that connects doctors to patients and enables real-time health and wellness insights from wearable technologies like a smartwatch.
Now, a follow-through investment of $47 million from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund has been made in a national network that develops technology and services for healthy aging; known as the envisAGE Network, it brings together investors, developers, entrepreneurs and health care providers. The envisAGE Network was established with network co-lead organizations AGE-WELL and MEDTEQ+, and it is already working with a war chest of some $150 million.
Based in Montreal, MEDTEQ+ is a not-for-profit accelerator for the development of innovative health care technologies. AGE-WELL is a pan-Canadian network of companies developing technologies, services and practices for the benefit of older adults and caregivers. The organization also has staged major conferences, trade shows and networking events for the seniors health care community. And the envisAGE Network already receives financial support from more than
90 organizations across six provinces pledging $85 million, and it plans to increase its membership to more than 400 organizations over the next six years.
The members will collaborate in building up Canada’s AgeTech ecosystem by developing technologies to help seniors, and their caregivers, successfully age-in-place. envisAGE aims to create 500 new jobs, support SMEs and secure even more new investments in companies in the field.
Technological innovations include remote digital health technologies and artificial intelligence-enabled patient monitoring tools, diagnostic data analytics and real-time connections to health care providers through tele- and virtual platforms.
“Our investment in MEDTEQ+ will support new projects and technologies that will directly help seniors and their caregivers to work through the challenges of aging-in-place,” said Minister of Seniors Kamal Khera when the latest funding was announced. “Seniors deserve to live in dignity and this investment aligns with our efforts to give seniors the care they deserve while aging at home.”
While its development took place before the latest funding announcement, a new health care platform developed at the University of Toronto is a compelling example of what can – and needs to – be done in the field of consumer health care and engaged provider/patient relationships.
Called Tabiat, this new remote sensing technology platform connects doctors to patients and enables the collection of real-time health insights from wearable technologies. It was developed at the Department of Computer Science and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and tested out in collaboration with U of T’s affiliated hospitals.
There’s a mobile app so patients can be directly involved in their own care through self-reporting; there’s a clinician’s dashboard where relevant patient health metrics and actionable insights can be integrated into treatment strategies, and there’s machine learning-based software to monitor and predict clinically-relevant changes in patient health.
The developers began as a student research team, dedicated to providing a secure environment without compromising the patient or doctor experience. They report the entire system is built with security and privacy as top priorities, using data encryption, multi-factor authentication, stringent access control and comprehensive logging all built on top of Amazon’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-compliant computing platform.
A study looking into how technology can help older adults with their mobility – a vital health indicator – is being fund through AGE-WELL as part of its mandate. Known as the McMaster Monitoring My Mobility – or MacM3 for short – the study is working with as many as 2,000 participants, ages 65 to 80, to assess how well they get around.
Participants wear a smartwatch with custom application on board for 10-day intervals every four months – throughout the two-year study. The information that’s collected includes counting every step taken, total distance travelled and activity intensity. Everything is encrypted for privacy, including additional health measures supported in the platform, such as in-person assessments, quarterly phone calls and monthly patient diaries, all as a way to accurately predict important health outcomes in older adults.
It is developments such as this that underpinned the new funding announcement. According to Diane Côté, MEDTEQ+’s Chief Executive Officer, the initiative will mobilize the country’s strong technological, social and entrepreneurial pool of talent to address the challenge of aging in Canada and around the world. “We understand the relevance and pressing need to support the adoption of high-impact solutions in improving the quality of life of older adults through the innovations of 100 SMEs bound for international markets.”
A big and international market.