MyVaccines.ca Makes it Easy for Canadians to Find and Book Their Next Vaccination

Toronto, ON: EMPOWER Health, a Canadian digital health innovator launches MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator to help Canadians find and book any type of vaccine in Canada. This is EMPOWER Health’s 6th year running a vaccine locator & booking website where last year focused on only flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines, and this year expands to all vaccines.  The map-based directory allows users to search and book a vaccination appointment at any public health clinic, pharmacy, primary care clinic, drive-thru clinic, and mass vaccination clinic in their region. 

To add to the convenience, users can sign-up to join a waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any clinic has vaccines available. They can also use the platform to search for other healthcare services, view operating hours, and find providers who speak their language, and even find family doctors accepting new patients.

MyVaccines.ca makes vaccinations easy for clinics as well. It’s the fastest and simplest way to let the community know what vaccines your clinic has available. With advanced features like simplified vaccine inventory management, multi-dose scheduling, automatic email reminders and centralized wait-lists, managing vaccination appointments is a breeze.

MyVaccines.ca stems from an Ontario-wide pilot project the company launched during the 2020-2021 flu season. EMPOWER Health partnered with Immunize Canada to support access to flu shots through MyFluShot.ca – a vaccine locator that showed vaccine inventory and availability information for over 6,500 healthcare organizations across Ontario, which led to over 100,000 appointments booked and many stories from seniors who were able to use the tool to easily find high dose flu shots at a time of scarcity.

The vaccines available on the platform include the COVID-19 vaccine, Influenza (Flu) vaccine, Herpes Zoster (Shingles) vaccine and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Through MyVaccines.ca, the company hopes to improve healthcare navigation of the whole system and help bridge the gaps between vaccination access and delivery in Canada. 

“The vision with MyVaccines.ca is to have vaccine availability and inventory information from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadians find and book their next vaccination with ease.” said Dr. Ryan Doherty, President & Founder of EMPOWER Health. “This is a coordinated effort by healthcare professionals, networks and the public to help us build on this vision and make it as easy as possible for everyone to access public health programs while also helping healthcare professionals deliver quality care.”

In the past, EMPOWER Health has partnered with Immunize Canada, Asthma Canada, Canada’s National Institute of Ageing (NIA) and other international partners to support all stakeholders of the Canadian healthcare system through vaccine distribution and public awareness/access to vaccines.

About EMPOWER Health: EMPOWER Health is a digital health innovator that is transforming how patients navigate and access healthcare in Canada. Through their own platforms and partner initiatives, they are on a mission to empower all stakeholders of the healthcare sector.

During the past decade, EMPOWER Health has been supporting the Canadian healthcare system by implementing national registries, patient navigation websites/apps and online appointment booking infrastructure that powers initiatives focused on equitable access to healthcare services across primary care, acute care, pharmacy, and public health.

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EMPOWER Health launches MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator to help Canadians find and book any type of vaccine in Canada.

myflushot

Lessons Learned from the 2020-2021 Ontario-wide Pilot

Lessons Learned from the 2020-2021 Ontario-wide Pilot

During the peak period of Canada’s 2020-2021 flu shot distribution, demand for influenza vaccines was higher than expected. Many people were hoping to be vaccinated to avoid having symptoms and the potential for a serious enough case to be hospitalized during an expected second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The combined effect of higher than anticipated demand along with vaccine distribution delays resulted in many vaccination clinics being short on supply, leading to busy phone lines, long line-ups, overworked staff, and frustrated patients. 

But vaccine access wasn’t evenly impacted.  Some healthcare organizations had supply of influenza vaccines but very little traffic or interest from their local community, leading to a mismatch of demand and supply in many areas.

We saw behaviour similar to what happened during the COVID vaccine rollout, where people were searching for flu vaccines and in some cases going well out of their way to be vaccinated.  

During 2020, we ran an Ontario wide campaign called MyFluShot.ca, in partnership with Immunize Canada, to encourage providers to provide greater transparency to real time vaccine availability inventory.  We had 3,439 participating pharmacies and 1,342 participating medical clinics who signed up to provide their flu vaccine availability and inventory data.  That data was presented to patients on our health services locator, specifically filtered to show locations offering flu shots.  

Over that time we had over 3 million searches for flu vaccines on our platform.  A post user survey of 1277 users found that 92% had found a flu vaccine through MyFluShot.ca. 47% had used the waitlist / notification feature, a unique ability we built into the platform for users to be added to a waitlist and be notified when a flu vaccine was available at their desired location. 84% mentioned they would use the platform again during the next Flu season.  One user in particular comes to mind who was looking for a high dose flu vaccine for her and husband, and finding none in her local community found a location 80 KMs away and booked an appointment for her and her spouse. It made her feel very relieved that they were able to do this without a lot of hassle (except for a drive). 

Increase Transparency

We learned during the pilot that increasing transparency reduced patient frustration when demand exceeded supply.  Waitlists and email communications are vital when managing expectations of potential patients.  As with any new tool, there is a learning curve for some users, and we gained some valuable feedback as to how to make the process easier for users.  

From provider based to regional based waitlists. 

We learned that many patients looking for vaccinations are flexible to where they receive it, and like Covid vaccinations, many patients were putting themselves on multiple locations’ waitlists.  This creates an inefficiency for the whole system.  To address this, we’ve built into MyVaccines a regional waitlist.  A patient can sign up for a vaccination waitlist for a specific location, group of locations, or a region, and be notified when any provider has vaccinations available.  We expect this to further optimize demand and supply of vaccinations in the future and make the lives of healthcare organization administrators easier as they don’t have to manually remove patients from waitlists who’ve gotten their vaccination somewhere else. It will also save the patients time as they don’t have to appointment shop at dozens of locations. 

Adopt Technology Faster 

Patients want an easy path to get vaccinated.  The easier it is, the more likely we are to having more equitable vaccination access.  Technology, or lack thereof, is a barrier.  Having patients trying to call multiple healthcare providers when their time is limited, and / or have language barriers or have accessibility issues can prevent them having timely access to vaccines.  With the use of technology that allows them to search, join a waitlist, and book appointments when vaccines are available makes vaccinations easier to access.  Healthcare organizations have typically been slower to adopt new technologies, but are moving faster to add these services to their practice. 

Changing is always more challenging in healthcare due to the higher risk involved in managing sensitive information and protecting patient health records. Yet the time is right for the adoption of these types of tools to accelerate. 

The Evolution of MyVaccines.ca & How It’s Modernizing Canadian Healthcare

The Evolution of MyVaccines.ca & How It’s Modernizing Canadian Healthcare

2021 saw an incredible increase in interest in vaccinations. Not just COVID19 vaccines, but vaccines of all types across the board.  The vaccination conversation for better and worse has become much louder.  As we’ve reignited the discussion for vaccine benefits – protecting oneself and their community against communicable and deadly diseases, we’ve also seen a shift in how people are looking for vaccinations.  

The early part of this shift actually happened during the 2020 flu season – more demand for flu vaccines from patients looking to avoid flu complications during a COVID wave – and shortages of those vaccines due to the mismatch in supply.  As a pilot with Immunize Canada we launched MyFluShot.ca as a way to allow vaccinators to provide transparency into their availability and supply, and for patients to find, join a waitlist, and book flu vaccines. 

Based on this success we launched MyCovid19Vaccine.ca – as a dedicated service to allow Canadians to find and book available Covid Vaccinations – which saw incredible demand as the provincial governments rolled out vaccines to various cohorts of patients.  It exposed the fact that nationally we as an industry can do a lot better in helping Canadian’s locate vaccinations, especially during times of high demand and limited supply.  There were many attempts to address this inequity in our industry from government agencies to crowd sourced twitter feeds, but none of these were able to provide full transparency and visibility into all providers.  

To help increase transparency and equity of vaccine delivery, we’ve evolved MyFluShot.ca and MyCovid19Vaccine.ca into simply MyVaccines.ca – a national vaccine locator for all vaccines.  Our vision with this platform is to have vaccine availability and inventory data from all vaccinators across Canada, and to help all Canadian’s to find and book their next vaccination.  This effort builds on the successful pilots and partnerships with organizations across the healthcare industry in Canada, and we need all vaccinators to use our easy to use tools to help us build on this vision. 

The Third COVID-19 Shot: Yay or Nay?

Pfizer’s latest data has suggested that a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine would strongly boost protection against the Delta variant, even more so than two doses alone. 

The unofficial Pfizer data indicates that antibody levels against the Delta variant in those aged 18 to 55 after receiving a third dose of vaccine are higher than for those who have only received their second dose (Howard, 2021). For those aged 65 to 85, the antibody response was even higher (Howard, 2021).

Extra doses in Quebec

The Quebec government is currently offering an extra dose of an mRNA vaccine to those who are looking to travel to countries that don’t recognize their vaccination status (CBC, 2021). As there are certain countries that don’t recognize people as being fully vaccinated if they have received two different COVID-19 vaccines, this has become a concerning issue for the approximate 1.3 million Canadians who have mixed and matched. Health officials have repeatedly mentioned that it is the recipient’s discretion to “seek advice and weigh the risks” prior to receiving a third dose (CBC, 2021).

Robert Maranda, a spokesman for the Health Department states that there are no studies assessing the impact of receiving three doses of two separate vaccines and that “the person should be properly counselled to be informed of the potential risks associated with this added dose compared to the benefits of the planned trip,” (CBC, 2021).


Hope for the immunocompromised


While a third dose may not be recommended for everyone, recent data has shown that it may be beneficial to those who are immunocompromised. According to a world first study, a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could provide significantly greater protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in transplant patients (Favaro et al., 2021). Because transplant recipients’ immune systems are typically “unable to mount an adequate response to immunization”, they are much more prone to infectious diseases such as COVID-19 (Favaro et al., 2021). As such, the promising results from testing the third dose on transplant patients provides hope for other individuals who are immunocompromised due to other medical conditions.

What are health officials saying?

As of now, there is not enough evidence to demonstrate that a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is necessary. In the words of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), “there is currently no evidence on the need for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine after the vaccine series is complete” (CBC, 2021). 

NACI does however recommend that the same mRNA vaccines are used for a second dose, but also ensures that mRNA shots are considered interchangeable should the first type be unavailable (CBC, 2021). Additionally, NACI mentions that any of the approved mRNA options are actually preferred as a second dose regardless of the type of vaccine that was received for the first (CBC, 2021). This is a result of emerging safety evidence and the possibility that having at least one dose of an mRNA vaccine may produce a better immune response (CBC, 2021). 

At the end of the day, it is the individuals’ responsibility to weigh the risks of receiving a third dose. That being said, it would be in your best interest to consult with a primary health physician beforehand in order to make an informed decision.

References

CBC/Radio Canada. (2021, July 27). Quebec offers extra dose to travellers whose vaccination status isn’t recognized | CBC News. CBCnews. https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/quebec-third-dose-covid-vaccine-travel-1.6117954.

Favaro, A., Philip, E. S., & Dunham, J. (2021, August 11). Third COVID-19 vaccine dose effective and safe for transplant Recipients: Study. Coronavirus. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/third-covid-19-vaccine-dose-effective-and-safe-for-transplant-recipients-study-1.5543323.

Howard, J. (2021, July 28). Pfizer claims 3rd DOSE ‘strongly’ BOOSTS protection against Delta variant. Coronavirus. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/pfizer-claims-3rd-dose-strongly-boosts-protection-against-delta-variant-1.5526101.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

The Long Haul: Post-COVID-19 Conditions

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has directly impacted over 185 million people worldwide (including those who have deceased as a result of the virus). With just over 4 million of those 185 million+ cases being fatal (Ritchie et al., 2020), the remaining individuals are notoriously those who have supposedly recovered from their initial COVID-19 symptoms. Recently however, a number of these “recovered individuals” have reported experiences of post-COVID-19 conditions.

What are Post-COVID-19 Conditions?

Post-COVID-19 conditions, otherwise known as long COVID-19, post-acute COVID-19, or chronic COVID-19, involve a number of new and/or persisting symptoms that occur “four or more weeks after first being infected” with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (CDC, 2021). While post-COVID-19 conditions have a tendency to affect those who experienced severe illness during their infectious period, these symptoms can affect anyone who has had COVID-19—regardless of whether or not they were asymptomatic during their infectious period (CDC, 2021). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled a list of some the most commonly reported symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Changes in period cycles

Who is at risk?

It is common for many to assume that the older population and/or those with pre-existing health conditions are at a higher risk for experiencing post-COVID-19 conditions. While this is most likely true, a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway reveals that long-term symptoms after having mild COVID-19 can also impact young people (Neustaeter, 2021). 

After analyzing the symptoms of 312 COVID-19 patients six months post-COVID infection, the study found that 61% of these patients experienced post-COVID-19 conditions (Neustaeter, 2021). Moreover, 52% of patients between the ages of 16 and 30 who suffered mild COVID-19 infection reported prolonged symptoms that included but were not limited to, loss of taste/smell, fatigue, shortness of breath, and impaired concentration (Neustaeter, 2021). The study mentions that these symptoms were “independently associated with severity of the initial illness, pre-existing conditions and increased convalescent antibodies” (Neustaeter, 2021). 

“The cognitive symptoms of impaired memory and concentration difficulties are particularly worrying for young people at school or university and [ultimately] highlights the importance of vaccination to prevent the long-term health implications of COVID-19.”

  • Bjorn Blomberg 

Multiorgan and Autoimmune Conditions

Those who experience severe COVID-19 illness during their infectious period may also experience multiorgan effects and/or autoimmune conditions post-infection. Multiorgan effects can involve damage to the body systems, including a combination of heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain functions (CDC, 2021). Autoimmune conditions on the other hand occur when the immune system misinterprets and attacks healthy cells, ultimately causing inflammation and/or tissue damage (CDC, 2021). 

Associate professor and study author Bjorn Blomberg claims that more research is needed to further assess the long-term impacts of the disease on other organs (Neustaeter, 2021). Based on the Norway study findings, he adds that it is crucial to understand the need for vaccines and other infection control measures—not just for the older population, but for younger age groups as well.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Post-COVID Conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html.

Neustaeter, B. (2021, June 23). Young adults with mild COVID-19 suffering from persistent symptoms six months after infection: study. CTV News. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/young-adults-with-mild-covid-19-suffering-from-persistent-symptoms-six-months-after-infection-study-1.5482892.

Ritchie, H., Ortiz-Ospina, E., Beltekian, D., Mathieu, E., Hasell, J., Macdonald, B., Giattino, C., Appel, C., Rodés-Guirao, L., & Roser, M. (2020, March 5). Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) – the data – Statistics and Research. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

If you’re reading this, book your HPV vaccine at myvaccines.ca!

It is reasonable to say that COVID-19 vaccines are of utmost priority given the current situation. With that being said, it is crucial to remember that there are serious healthcare issues that have and continue to exist alongside the pandemic. 

What is HPV?

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (CDC, 2021). It can also be passed down from a mother to her offspring during childbirth. There are many types of HPV that lead to a variety of health issues including certain cancers. Getting an HPV vaccine however, can help protect against these outcomes (CDC, 2021).

What does HPV have to do with Cervical Cancer?

According to Dr. Raymond Mansoor, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Sir Lester Bird Mount St John’s Medical Centre, HPV is the “direct cause of 99.7 percent of all cervical cancer cases and so there is definitely some argument or discussion that can be had as to the benefits of vaccination against cervical cancer” (Williams, 2021). 

Cervical cancer is also the second most common form of cancer in females, following breast cancer (Williams, 2021). Because all females are at risk for contracting HPV, it is imperative to receive the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer.

Herd Immunity and Cervical Cancer

While “herd immunity” is a term that is often used to help describe how a community can combat COVID-19, Dr. Mansoor claims that it can and should be applied to the prevalence of cervical cancer (Williams, 2021). In Australia, current epidemiological research has demonstrated a 50 percent reduction in reported cervical cancers per year, which is an indication that the HPV vaccines are a highly effective preventative measure against cervical cancer (Williams, 2021). 

If you have yet to get your HPV vaccine, easily book an appointment using myvaccines.ca!

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, January 19). STD Facts – Human papillomavirus (HPV). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm.

Williams, O. (2021, June 23). ‘Herd immunity via HPV vaccinations will reduce cervical cancer cases’ – Dr Mansoor. Antigua Observer Newspaper. https://antiguaobserver.com/herd-immunity-via-hpv-vaccinations-will-reduce-cervical-cancer-cases-dr-mansoor/.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

Is It Safe to Gather With Others During The COVID-19 Pandemic? Use This Tool to Find Out: CovidVisitRisk.com

The Visit Risk Calculator (CovidVisitRisk.com) is a new assessment tool launched by the NIA (National Institute of Ageing) in partnership with the Government of Canada to help Canadians assess the risk-level associated with social gatherings.

Using the best available scientific evidence and the input of leading experts in infectious diseases, public health and epidemiology, the website was developed to help people of different ages and states of health better understand the factors that affect the risk of getting COVID-19 when visiting or gathering with others.

As vaccination programs ramp up across the country, restrictions are slowly loosening. Canadians want more guidance on what fully-vaccinated people can do safely. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says, “We would like to enable people to take themselves through [this] kind of risk assessment while respecting local public health requirements.”

To use the tool, you will be asked a series of questions related to your vaccination and health status, and that of the people you want to gather with, details of the event and what the local infection rates are.

“This tool uses the best available scientific evidence to support people of all ages and states of health to make more informed decisions about gathering with others during the pandemic,” says Dr. Samir Sinha, NIA Director of Health Policy Research. “After working through the questions, people are assigned a risk level in accordance with the gathering they are considering, along with public health advice on how to meet more safely with others.”

Based on your answers, you will get a “risk score” from Low to High, a personalized report to help you understand the level of risk associated with your planned visit or gathering, and tips on how to make your visit or gathering as safe as possible for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The vision behind the tool is to prepare you and your loved ones to better discuss the potential risks and benefits of visiting or gathering with each other and in the end make a well-informed decision on how to make any necessary visits or gatherings as safe as possible.

“These risk assessments depend on your individual risk, who you’re about to get into contact with, as well as the epidemiology of your specific community,” says Dr. Theresa Tam.

As of June 25th 2021, 75% of the population 12 years and older has received at least one dose and 22% is fully vaccinated. However, COVID-19 remains an important public health issue as transmission with new variants of concern continue to circulate. Careful assessment before deciding to visit, gather, or meet with others remains vitally important.

To learn more about the COVID-19 Risk Calculator or to use it for yourself, click here.

Disclosure: EMPOWER Health helped the NIA build the online experience of the risk assessment tool, and provided technical guidance along with testing.  As always, our team is proud of our work with Public Health Organizations to help conquer COVID! Visit us at empower.ca!

References

Rabson, M. (2021, June 22). Risk-assessment tool for fully vaccinated people coming soon, Tam promises. Ctvnews.ca. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/risk-assessment-tool-for-fully-vaccinated-people-coming-soon-tam-promises-1.5481082

The wealthy bird gets the worm: Getting a head start on second doses

With the Delta variant continuing to spread in various parts of Ontario, it is crucial that second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are accessible to those who are most vulnerable. According to recent data however, it appears that those living in wealthier postal codes are moving well with the rate of second doses—even more so than the poorer and more racialized communities that need it the most.

Ontario has identified and targeted the following regions to receive an increased amount of second doses: Toronto, Peel Region, Halton and York Region. 

The independent research organization ICES claims that as of June 7, 2021,

the wealthier postal codes among the targeted regions appear to have an
increased amount of second-dose recipients  (Woodward, 2021). The postal code that led the race at the time was M5P which includes parts of Forest Hill where 17.55 percent of the residents had received their second dose (Woodward, 2021).The area around Jane and Finch, as well as Rexdale had significantly lower numbers, at 4.97 and 4.58 percent respectively (Woodward, 2021).

Dr. David Burt of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity states that “many [racialized and other vulnerable community members] are in the service industry, they can’t work from home, they have to take public transit, they have to work in the health-care sector”.

Distribution Solutions

The inequities with the rollout of second doses are no different than the first. In order to create a more balanced distribution, Toronto’s Sprint Strategy is working towards targeting areas of interest. On the other hand, pop-ups such as the ones held by Scarborough Health Network are focused on the population that lives and works in high-risk postal codes (Woodward, 2021).

References

Woodward, J. (2021, June 15). Ontario’s wealthiest zones get head start on second doses, data shows. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-wealthiest-zones-get-head-start-on-second-doses-data-shows-1.5470688.

Author, Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her)

Bairavie Piravakaran is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently volunteers with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

iamsick.ca’s Grand Challenge

How can a Canadian digital health startup like iamsick.ca improve healthcare access for pregnant women living in rural parts of The Philippines?

“You begin by collaborating with another U of T startup… add some sweat and perseverance… along with financial support from Grand Challenges Canada… and soon, you’ll be improving lives beyond our borders.” – Ryan Doherty (President & co-Founder – iamsick.ca / PhD candidate – Medical Biophysics )

It isn’t surprising that remote areas of the world have limited access to healthcare. When it comes to maternal health, this means limited access to obstetricians and diagnostic services that you would see in larger metropolitan areas. In the Philippines, it can be as extreme as 44% of pregnant women giving birth without access to a doctor.

Last Spring, we teamed up with another U of T startup, Sonola Imaging Technologies, whose specialty is creating portable ultrasound hardware, and prepared a Grand Challenges Canada proposal to build a maternal health ultrasound mHealth app & web platform.

Nurses and midwives in remote satellite clinics will use Sonola’s portable ultrasound device and our android app to record ultrasound images. These images would then be easily accessed & viewed by physicians at major health centres in nearby cities.

Last October, Grand Challenges Canada awarded us with a grant to support the project.  So, while working on the iamsick.ca website and mobile apps to help Canadians navigate the healthcare system and book online appointments with their doctors, members of our team have been hard at work on this global health project.

Our team is designing & developing the android app & web infrastructure, while Sonola is building the hardware that will be used to capture the ultrasound images. By working together, our two early-stage Canadian start-ups will create a system that will hopefully redefine maternal health access in rural parts of the Philippines.ultrasound-diagram

The ultimate goal of this project is to create a low-cost and scalable product. In contrast to traditional ultrasound machines, we are using readily available hardware, such as low- to mid-range Android phones and chip sets. In the future, this system could eventually be used to monitor pregnant women living anywhere in the world – whether it’s here at home in Canada, or in regions of the world with high maternal mortality rates. The potential impact of telemedicine systems like these are endless.

As for our system, we’ll finish building it this summer and pilot it in the Philippines before the end of the year.

If you have a bold idea for a innovative technology or process that will help tackle a global health challenge, please check out the Grand Challenges website and take part in their next call for proposals.

eHealth Conference: Then and Now

This week, the iamsick.ca team attended eHealth Conference 2015. Our team attended a booth on the exhibition floor. It was after speaking to Ryan, our president and one of the original co-founders, that we found out iamsick.ca and the eHealth Conference have a history together!

In honour of COACH’s 40th and Conference’s 10th anniversaries, let’s take a walk down memory lane and visit eHealth Conference 2013.

Throwback Thursday: 2013 Apps Challenge

The eHealth Conference has a history of organizing app competitions. Before their collaboration with Hacking Health in 2014, the conference team hosted the Apps Challenge. The challenge is where health IT innovators can go head to head and showcase the best they have to offer.

iamsick.ca was a runner-up winner of the 2013 Challenge. The encouragement and feedback we received at eHealth Conference 2013  motivated us to take on the roller-coaster ride that digital health startups face.

eHealth2013 - iamsick.ca are the runner-up winners

#eHealth2015: iamsick.ca today

A lot has changed since then. Our team has grown, our features have expanded, and we’re learning everyday.

During the conference, our team got to meet many ehealth professionals from across Canada. We were pleasantly surprised at how many people have heard of and used our website and app!

We also learned that the need for better healthcare navigation is a universal problem. After speaking with delegates from different provinces, we feel even more motivated to expand our platform to include the rest of Canada.

It was encouraging to see so many professionals and organizations dedicated to improving healthcare using technology.

We look forward to connecting with you following the conference. If you were not able to make it to the conference, please feel free to reach out at team[at]iamsick.ca, or through our Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.