Nova Scotia healthcare — there is hope!

Nova Scotia healthcare — there is hope!

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Ashwin Kutty (President & CEO, WeUsThem)

Healthcare occupies the majority of our political, societal, and innovation discourse — as it should. We spend a lot of money, time, and resources to improve how care is delivered, and we continue to hear about the changing face of healthcare provincially and nationally. Numerous governments have also taken differing approaches in how to solve some of the foundational issues we have had in healthcare for some time now.

What is different now, however, is that the innovation agenda is taking centre stage in both the public and private sectors. We need new ideas surrounding the delivery of healthcare while continuing to right the ship of our healthcare system.

One of the key ingredients in these efforts has been the burgeoning start-up community in Nova Scotia, which is supported by various organizations, levels of government, and post-secondary institutions. Additionally, our healthcare institutions have adopted an innovation mandate that is seeing them take differing approaches to how care is delivered, including approaches that utilize PPP models. Their support of commercializing the renowned research in our province — by helping innovators and researchers in our academic and healthcare institutions — is yet another brilliant mainstay. It will produce not just a change in our system, but also an export of ideas and innovations nationally and internationally.

The Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub launched this past February, during the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Showcase. It was an encouraging beginning to what I hope becomes a mainstay in our clinical and academic portfolios (i.e. innovating how we shift the needle in some of our practices). Should this become a mandate in our clinical portfolios, as well as a key aspect of the learning journey in our academic settings, this could make room for a better plan for the future.

The head of the Department of Surgery at a local healthcare institution once described to me his analogy of the healthcare industry: it’s like needing to fix the aircraft while still in mid-air. His analogy of change, while supporting the needs of the here-and-now, resonates with the understanding of not only what we need to do for today, but also for tomorrow. When you recall the waitlists, the shortages of healthcare providers, and the societal demands pertaining to the institutions we have today, it’s a tough argument to make to have our providers take time to innovate. Innovation, however, is a key component of not doing the same thing repeatedly for infinitum. We need to think differently — and this requires flying the plane while we fix it.

There is good news on the horizon, however. Ground-breaking innovations — from bionic enhancements, to A.I. mammography, to wielding COVID-19 in the fight against various cancers — are taking place in the healthcare sector here in our beautiful province. Every day, there is an innovator trying to bring their innovations to market. I am proud to recognize WeUsThem in spearheading an innovation in mental health and addictions care, which has propelled our firm to being named as one of the Top 10 Innovative Businesses in Canada this year.

We need a continual look at what we do, how we do it, and what else we can do. Innovation needs to be about monumental, not incremental change. It is encouraging to see that we have a climate that is attracting millions of dollars of investment, research, and commercialization opportunities that are reaching a global marketplace of consumers and partnerships.

In their Accountability Report for 2020-2021, Innovacorp reported that they made 22 investments totalling $9.7 million. Their portfolio of companies during the same period raised $141 million, of which the life sciences sector was well represented in the mix. Similarly, in their 2021 Year-In-Review, the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association reported $18 Million in private equity deals that included three life sciences companies. They also reported $53 million in venture capital deals that included seven life sciences companies. To put this into further context, the life sciences sector received venture capital investments totaling $1.8 billion (a 50% increase from the previous year) and private equity deals totaling $1.2 billion in the same period across the country. Clearly, there is an appetite to fix healthcare systems across the country, as well as an eagerness to invest in innovations that can shift the landscape dramatically.

We need new approaches that will make the necessary impact to improve our societal wellbeing. We cannot shy away from the fact that these investments support what is most precious to us all: life. The beauty is that, beyond the societal imperative, there is also a huge economic benefit to our communities.

I am encouraged by the fact that we do not lag in healthcare innovations, but I remain impatient for the legitimate, urgent leaps we need to take to improve the lives of our fellow Nova Scotians.

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