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Revving Up Inclusive Healthcare Innovation

Jacqueline Cruz

June 7, 2021

Long before COVID-19, traditional healthcare infrastructures across North America were struggling to find a place for the “digital world” within their systems. The idea of digitizing health records stirred up a variety of opinions from health care professionals to government stakeholders. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge healthcare conventions, innovators are exploring new solutions to age-old problems. Not only are digital health solutions serving patients, but they are also allowing healthcare practitioners to access information in a more effective and timely manner.

For the most part, the digitization of healthcare and healthcare related processes has lifted barriers for many communities, allowing them to overcome challenges related to geography, transportation, and time. ventureLAB proudly empowers companies working to break down healthcare barriers. As more and more products and services are developed with the goal of increasing accessibility, it is important that we are able to support these ventures throughout their growth in hopes that these solutions can one day make their intended impact. 

According to the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Canada has approximately 42,500 licensed pharmacists working in more than 10,000 pharmacies. Of those, about 70% work in community pharmacies, 15% work in hospitals, and 15% work in other settings such as the pharmaceutical industry, governments, associations, colleges and universities. 

Pharmacies and pharmacists are an important part of Canada’s healthcare delivery system. Since the onset of the pandemic, Canadian pharmacies have become the most accessible point of contact for those requiring medical help. MedEssist helps pharmacies digitally connect with and offer new services to their communities. Through their pharmacy app, patients can refill their prescriptions from their local pharmacy with just a few clicks. This has been a critical feature for those looking to access traditional pharmacy services, without compromising their healthcare throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In March 2021, MedEssist teamed up with The Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) to offer a digital health solution that will enable community pharmacies across Ontario to meet the immediate demand for COVID-19 vaccinations. MedEssist is Canada’s first and only inventory-based patient triaging system, designed to help pharmacies to operate more efficiently and provide exceptional patient care while minimizing vaccine wastage. 

“Pharmacies using MedEssist are set up to manage the patient interaction and answer complicated questions about the vaccine. This is what pharmacists and their staff have been trained to do.” 

  • Joella Almeida, Co-founder of MedEssist

As we reflect on the past year and plan for the future, it is critical that healthcare infrastructures across the board adapt to support new realities. From the COVID-19 vaccine to yearly flu-shots, these community pillars continue to be the primary source of health and medical treatment for many. MedEssist’s services bring accessible healthcare and information to pharmacies directly meeting the needs of local patients. 

Digital health innovations are expansive and have the potential to address challenges and provide services for groups that are typically on the margins of accessible healthcare. Rekammend is creating a more inclusive and accessible digital health landscape with their platform Reka.

There are over 440,000 Canadians who have significant speech, language and communication disabilities. Some are life-long disabilities, while others are the result of medical issues such as traumatic brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (or ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Rekammend provides opportunities for individuals with speech and language disorders to engage in meaningful conversation through their platform, Reka. Through the platform, users receive personalized word recommendations that help them engage in contextual conversation in real time. In 2020, Rekammend was awarded the prize for Activate!Vaughan Challenge #2: Breaking Down Communication Barriers

While these new innovations have allowed us to push for more inclusive and accessible healthcare, it is important to note that going digital has its downsides. Many of the new processes involved in the COVID-19 vaccine roll out leave certain communities and groups hanging on the margins. The digital divide continues to leave many frustrated as some of our most vulnerable communities are unable to access or navigate digitized healthcare options. The First Policy Response project, pioneered by Ryerson University, has outlined that older adults, those living in low-income communities, and those with disabilities face accessibility issues when it comes to the online COVID-19 vaccination portal. 

At ventureLAB, we know that by including everyone, we all thrive. This is why it is critical for us to support diverse, and socially informed innovation. When we account for founders and entrepreneurs bringing with them various lived experiences, we recognize that their solutions impact many with similar needs or challenges. Focusing on accessibility and variety through different lenses ensures that the future of innovation represents and reflects all communities, not just the ones we ourselves are part of.

About ventureLAB

ventureLAB is a leading technology hub located in Markham in York Region, Canada’s second largest tech cluster. Through its programs focused on capital, talent, technology, and customers, ventureLAB has supported over 2,000 tech companies and entrepreneurs, including 100 companies that have raised over $100 million and created 3,500 jobs. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, for global markets.

About MedEssist 

MedEssist is a Toronto-based healthcare company that helps community pharmacies manage and coordinate medication refills, vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, and other healthcare services. MedEssist turns pharmacies into proactive healthcare hubs for their communities. By modernizing these pharmacies, MedEssist is changing how large-scale health initiatives such as COVID-19 vaccinations can be adapted to meet the requirements of local communities.

About ReKammend

Rekammend provides opportunities for individuals with speech and language disorders to engage in meaningful conversation. Our main product Reka personalizes the communication experience for clients and reduces their dependence on clinicians and caregivers.

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