Young entrepreneurs looking for solutions to help patients caught in limbo

No one wants to be at the hospital. But patients who are extremely frail and often suffering from conditions such as dementia may spend months in the hospital while waiting for a spot at a long-term care facility.

Joy’s husband is one of them; he has been at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) for five months suffering from mental health and mobility challenges. She visits him daily to provide support and stimulation. She appreciates the care he receives at MSH, but knows that he needs a more comfortable and interactive environment.

MSH is always looking for ways to improve the patient experience, and was excited to partner with Seneca on their HELIX Summer Institute, a special innovation ‘design jam’ that focuses on solutions to help improve the lives and cognitive skills of patients like Joy’s husband in their transitional care unit.

“We have an extensive innovation strategy working to leverage partnerships to bring new ideas to the hospital,” says Dr. George Arnold Chief of Clinical Innovation and Strategic Ventures at MSH. “This unique program connected young entrepreneurs from India and Canada with patients, families, staff, and doctors so they could learn about the challenges and come up with creative solutions for them.”

MSH and Seneca worked in partnership with IBM, ventureLab, York Region and the City of Markham to provide 43 youth participants this two-week program. It provided participants with a unique opportunity to develop entrepreneurship skills, learn how to turn their innovative ideas into business ventures, and in this case, to the benefit of this patient population.

“It is an interactive program that provides critical-thinking skills and prepares participants to adapt to the ever-changing world in their careers or as entrepreneurs,” says Chris Dudley, Director of HELIX, Seneca’s on campus Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre. “The participants really empathized with both the patients and the staff and worked hard to come up with their solutions.”

Solutions focused on stimulating and supporting patients with light therapy, a multi-sensory unit, artificial intelligence and volunteers to provide companionship, and calming, and sound cancelling methods in patient’s rooms to improve their sleep. One project also focused on staff safety to secure the nursing station from wandering or aggressive patients. Presentations can be viewed on Facebook live.

Participants presented their ideas to a panel of experts including the patient care manager from the transitional care unit and Joy who gave them feedback on the feasibility and practicality of each idea.

“Being involved in this project and hearing the different ideas raises my hopes that something more can be done to improve my husband’s situation and other patients at MSH,” says Joy. “I appreciated the different perspectives that the participants had in coming up with potential solutions.”

MSH will continue to work with Seneca, the other program partners and the participants towards piloting some of their ideas with our staff and patients. MSH has a project gating process which helps guide us as we develop an innovation hub to take ideas from conception through to commercialization. To learn more about innovation at MSH go to their SmartCare Innovation page.

By Carla Peacock, Senior Communications Specialist, MSH

Photo caption: HELIX participants with MSH and Seneca staff, and expert panelists.

Include links: SmartCare Innovation –

Facebook live –

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