Health care meets high tech: new med-tech hub would give entrepreneurs a place to shine and hospitals new ways to heal.

Author:Snell, Laurie
Position::Communitech in Ontario


SOME DAY, for reasons big or small, everyone ends up using services at a local hospital.

With that in mind, Dr. Doug Dittmer, Medical Director of Rehabilitation at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario, began asking, "Why shouldn't it be the best experience possible?"

Today, thanks to Dittmer's curiosity and insights, medical professionals, academics and entrepreneurs are exploring that concept with a shared sense of purpose. If plans fall into place, the next step will be a med-tech innovation hub in a heritage building with deep roots in Waterloo Region.

Dittmer's journey of discovery began at Communitech, a not-for-profit tech-innovation hub just a few blocks from the hospital, where university grads, entrepreneurs and other companies harness technological innovations, many of them modernizing health care.

"It struck me that there was this huge abyss between engineers and computer scientists and kinesiologists and doctors and nurses and therapists," Dittmer says.

"As I began to look into it more, I began to understand how powerful the University of Waterloo, Laurier and Conestoga College are here--and that (the hospital) really never had the chance to work closely with them."

He started going to tech seminars where he was "blown away" by research being done--especially inventions the hospital could adopt to improve the overall patient experience.

"Then, one of the presenters was talking about prosthetics, and he was talking about people overseas who step on a landmine and lose a leg," Dittmer recalls.

"He said they don't have prosthetics there, but they do have CAT scans at the hospital, so they were able to make an image of the opposite leg--the leg that survived the bomb blast--and he would then send that (image) back to Canada."

"They would re-jig it so they could actually--with a 3D printer--build a prosthesis for the other side that would exactly match," he says.

Dittmer was both amazed and bewildered that in the heart of Canada's tech sector, his rehabilitation department wasn't utilizing this modern technology.

He then learned how other companies were sharing data with cloud technology, and still others were downsizing traditional medical devices using nanotechnology to make them more mobile and efficient.

"Doctors and nurses and therapists are pretty smart people within our field, but we're not aware of all the wonderful things in the technology world. So by teaming us up with computer scientists and kinesiologists, you...

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