Tech Community Rallies Together to Raise Money for SickKids

The SickKids hospital in Toronto launched an initiative yesterday at MaRS Discovery District that is bringing together some of the brightest and most well-known minds in the Canadian technology world.

In the new community endeavour, the SickKids Foundation is hoping to raise $25 million from the Canadian tech and innovation sector to fund the future of child health, a future that heavily relies on digital innovation like AI, big data analytics and informatics.

“The province, the country, the world is listening and watching what we’re doing,” said Salim Teja, president of venture services for MaRS and co-chair of the SickKids tech and innovation advisory council.

“What an incredible thing to show them not only the great innovators that we are developing but how our innovators come together to do big important things to give back to their community.”

Massive names in the Canadian tech scene have already partnered with Sick Kids for this project, including Wealthsimple CEO Michael Katchen, League CHO Lori Casselman, Impression Ventures founder Christian Lassonde, Ritual CEO Ray Reddy and more.

A lot of support has been made in partnership with the Upside Foundation, an organization that collects pledges from businesses that will donate one per cent of their assets when they eventually exit in the form of an acquisition or an IPO. Companies like Wattpad and Wealthsimple have pledged that a portion of that eventual one per cent sale will go towards SickKids.

In terms of how technology will shape the new hospital that SickKids is hoping to build within 10 years, it’s hard to capture how integral cutting-edge innovation is to the medical community. There is a need for biosensors, wearables, consumables, nanotechnologies and genome sequencing, along with technology to help patient intake and admin work.

“As we move beyond just digitizing our processes and look to digitizing our people and patients,” said Sarah Muttitt, CIO at SickKids. “We can integrate big data with traditional medical data and combine it with immense computing power, AI and machine learning. This will transform the way we care for our patients with precision medicine.”

SickKids hospital is a pioneer in terms of how technology interacts with medicine in Canada. The hospital used computers for clinical documentation and order entry in the early 1990s. The new initiative is here to continue SickKids’ role as pioneers in transformative pediatric health.

The funding for this particular $25 million campaign will go towards three key goals: hiring a chair in bioinformatics and AI, harnessing big data analytics to improve healthcare delivery, and constructing a state-of-the-art emergency suite. These projects are core to the overall goal of using technology to make a real impact on reducing risk and increasing the ways doctors and nurses can solve problems.

Dr. Jason Fischer, chief of the emergency department at SickKids, knows all about how technology can influence medical care. He sat on a panel that discussed the role of innovation and the need for leaders in the space to step up to the plate. The role of a new chair to look after technology innovation is key to how the hospital will shape its growth.

“We recognize what a pivotal role big data, informatics, AI and machine learning will play across the board, so making that front of mind and having someone dedicated to that is really an amazing step in saying that SickKids is always looking to what’s next,” explained Fischer. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with how SickKids has parsed out what they want to work on. That chair will be important, as being able to make a granular tech-driven emergency suite of the future is amazing.”

Contributors to the Tech4SickKids event included founders, CEOs and entrepreneurs.

Still though, it can be difficult to look ahead and keep pace with how technology advances over the course of the SickKids campaign. This technology and innovation specific initiative will last five years, while the entirety of the campaign for a new hospital will span the next decade.

“It’s tricky to forecast out 10 years to see how we’ll deliver care. We know there’s genetic innovation which will change the game, but where we see things going, machine learning will be a big part of how we operate, deliver clinical care, and augment decision making,” said Fischer.

“It’s hard to nail down single things, as there’s a bit of danger translating the best of today to 10 years down the line. But when you forecast it out, it’s going to be machine learning and big data.”

The tech and innovation community initiative will continue to accept donations and contributions in any form, whether its resources from a company or monetary commitments. A breakfast series will begin soon that allows members of the community to donate and rub elbows with the tech moguls that have attached themselves to the campaign thus far.

SickKids has already done a lot of work in terms of tech innovation and research, especially when it comes to the use of VR to prep children for appointments or procedures.