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Digital health is defined as the sector resulting from the confluence of digital and health technologies and is primarily concerned with the dispensing and consumption of health care. It is the technological foundation that will enable the promise of 4P medicine to be fully realized, i.e. to achieve predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory medicine.
Digital health uses data and relies on smart mobile apps supported by advanced connected things and powered by machine learning and AI algorithms, among others.
The goals of digital health are to improve the experience of patients, who can have more control and responsibility in managing their health as well as decentralized access to care. This results in more balance and increased trust in the physician-patient relationship, shared decision-making and democratization of care. Health outcomes are improved and the costs of providing health care are controlled and sometimes even reduced.
Digital health is sometimes called e-health, connected health or telehealth. Artificial intelligence is a technique often used in digital health innovations.
Sub-sectors of digital health
Care Coordination Solutions
Companies providing online communication platforms for networks of health professionals; communities of professionals and forums focused on care coordination. Sometimes referred as Health Professionals’ Network when focusing on health education.
Clinical Decision Support
Companies developing software systems that support the decision-making of healthcare professionals. It allows for personalized medicine which is patient-centered and recommending treatments resulting from the data analytics.
Clinical Documentation Management
Companies offering solutions to maximize the capturing and recording of clinical information as well as the use of the digital medical files (sharing between health practitioners, ease of access etc.). It includes Electronic Medical Record (EMR).
Companies developing diagnostic tools using digital biomarkers (collected through biosensors or molecular based as well as patient reported outcomes). It includes technologies that make it possible to deliver a remote diagnostic such as remote patient monitoring.
Companies developing evidence-based therapeutic interventions driven by high quality software programs to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease. It includes numerous mental health related treatments (breathing, alerts, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques) and chronic illnesses related to habits. The treatment relies on behavioral and lifestyle changes.
Health Practices Management System
Companies providing technological tools used for the billing, e-prescription, clinical workflow management, scheduling, data-based resource optimization but excludes Electronic Medical Records. It includes the systems used by health organizations, home-care agencies, pharmacies, medical clinics and hospitals and was previously referred as Health IT. The health practices management systems are a customer facing tech enabler and can be the entry for plugging additional and sophisticated tech functionalities.
Multi-omics & Digital Pharma
Companies providing tools to pharmaceutical organizations to perform precision medicine (approach to developing individualized treatments with better outcomes based on clinical and molecular information diagnostics), drug development, and drug repositioning.
Other Digital Health
Patient Engagement & Adherence
Companies offering patient self-management solutions. This includes companion apps for individuals taking medication. Patient engagement results in improved health outcomes and more positive patient behaviors. More broadly, it involves patients and health practitioners working together to improve health.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Companies providing technologies for monitoring of patients outside of conventional clinical settings (blood pressure monitors, cardiac monitors, data storing glucometers etc.). It includes companies developing health related devices that can connect and exchange data with other devices, such as personal fitness wearables, mobile fitness and health apps. It is also referred as Internet of Medical Things.
Companies providing health-related consultations via telecommunications, health services search (information on health services locations and offerings), healthcare mobile communication (mobile marketing and communication tools for the healthcare sector). Consists of synchronous and asynchronous medicine.
Companies providing solutions to increase patients’ wellness and improving their state of well-being. Most of these companies are direct-to-consumer, while the most successful are partnering with corporate sponsored health programs (employers and insurers).
The digital health sector is represented throughout Quebec by more than one hundred companies in a dozen application verticals. Some of these companies are public Dialogue (telemedicine), Telus Health (clinical record management through Telus Corporation). Many other privately held companies are located across Quebec. Companies based in Montreal include Alayacare (health organization management system), Hospitalis (care coordination solution), and Hexoskin (remote patient monitoring). Imeka (omic approaches) and Omnimed (clinical record management) are in the Eastern Townships, whereas companies like Prehos and Petal MD (both active in the management systems of health organizations) are based in Quebec City.
There are also several more recently founded companies in digital health, including Haleo (telemedicine), Biotwin (clinical decision support), Gray Oncology Solutions (health organization management systems), Ask your pro (telemedicine), Empego (patient engagement and adherence), Ubenwa (digital diagnostics), and Paperplane Therapeutics (digital therapeutics), among others. Digital health start-ups and companies can also benefit from the support of specialized accelerators, including CTS Health Technology Catalyst, which accompanies them throughout their journey. From an institutional standpoint, the Consortium en santé numérique acts strategically to disseminate knowledge related to this discipline. Research is also booming and certain Québec researchers, such as Aude Motulsky or Guy Paré, have already been recognized globally for their expertise. Finally, digital health is gradually being integrated into the health network through various initiatives at the CHUM, the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal (OROT), and even throughout Québec (Réseau québécois de la télésanté) and Canada as a whole (the Digital Health and Discovery Platform, or the DHDP).
The Consortium santé numérique regroups various faculties, institutions and research centres affiliated with Université de Montréal with an interest in digital health. Through its workshops and events, the consortium promotes the meeting of different stakeholders in the sector and the sharing of knowledge around digital health. The consortium also recently published a call to action for responsible innovation in digital health and launched a blog to discuss various topics in digital health.
The HEC MONTRÉAL Research Chair in Digital Health focuses on measuring the effects at different levels of the implementation of connected health tools, the challenges and risks of connected health, and the influence of connected health on care paths in Québec.
The sustainable health research theme of the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of AI and Digital Technology (OBVIA) brings together researchers interested in studying the impact that artificial intelligence and digital technology can have on health, and how to make it as positive as possible.
Projects in connected health are also being developed at Mila, Montreal’s leading artificial intelligence research institute, as AI is sometimes used in some connected health tools. You can find more information on Mila on our Artificial Intelligence in Health niche of excellence page.
The Institut de valorisation des données (IVADO) is dedicated to bringing together industry professionals and university researchers to develop cutting-edge expertise in the fields of data science, optimization (operations research) and artificial intelligence. Concretely, IVADO encourages discussion and knowledge-sharing between specialists, partners, researchers, and students in its network. Some of the institute’s projects are related to digital health.
The Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS) have provided financial support to two dual research chairs specialized in artificial intelligence applied to health. They are the Research chair on the development and validation of clinical decision support systems using artificial intelligence (Professor Rita Noumeir (ÉTS), Professor Philippe Jouvet (Université de Montréal and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre)) and the Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Digital Health for Health Behaviour Change (Professor Éric Granger (ÉTS), Professor Simon Bacon (Concordia University and the CIUSSS du Nord de l’île de Montréal Research Centre)).
Several health institutions in Québec have initiatives and projects related to digital health. The following is a non-exhaustive list:
CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (NIM INTELLIANCE BeachheadTM center, COVID-19 virage numérique en santé mentale , Chaire de recherche en intelligence artificielle et santé numérique pour le changement des comportements de santé (in French)
Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine (CHU Sainte-Justine) (chaire de recherche sur le développement et validation de systèmes d’aide à la décision clinique à l’aide de l’intelligence artificielle et quelques projets en santé numérique)
Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) (pôle d’intelligence artificielle en santé , VIA CHUM BeachheadTM, several services and research projects) (in French)
Institut Philippe-Pinel de Montréal (member of Consortium santé numérique)
CHU de Québec- Université Laval (nanoprogram in French: les technologies numériques de la santé: les connaître pour mieux soigner ; telehealth coordination center including a provincial project in digital pathology; virtual oncology consultations; collaboration with BioTwin)
The Digital Health Discovery Platform (DHDP) is a pan-Canadian initiative that provides a cutting-edge technological infrastructure as well as a strategic framework to unlock data-driven discoveries for cancer and other diseases. The platform uses various types of data locally from Canadian healthcare institutions to optimize AI models. The parameters of these models are then shared with the DHDP community thanks to a federated learning ecosystem. Participating hospitals maintain control and autonomy over their own data, which remain at the site where they were generated and never leave institutional, local or provincial boundaries. A first publication was able to highlight the proof of concept of Imagia’s EVIDENS platform, which is integrated with DHDP, in an example of computed tomography image analysis in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, in order to predict the clinical result of a treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
Established as part of the 2017-2027 Quebec Life Sciences Strategy, the Fonds d’accélération des collaborations en santé has enabled the creation of several innovative and audacious initiatives, including several in digital health. Two cohorts of six and four projects based on public-private collaborations were created respectively in 2017 and 2021 and will be followed by CQDM, the Quebec Biopharmaceutical Research Consortium.
The Réseau québécois de la télésanté, under the authority of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux ,includes more than 100 professionals in 34 health facilities and 4 telehealth coordination centres. Many projects are created each year. For example, following the COVID-19 pandemic, a telehealth project was set up by the technical aids service (TAS) team of the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, the institution’s digital health department and the Habilitas Foundation. This initiative has enabled the maintenance of virtual assessment clinics by taking precise measurements for locomotion and posture aids remotely. Now anchored in the TAS’s way of working, this technology also makes it possible to bring this care to Cree and Inuit patients in remote areas of Northern Quebec. Other examples of innovative projets supported by the Réseau Québécois de la télésanté can be viewed in the News section of their website.
Numana, the catalyst for innovation ecosystems, collaborates with the CRIUGM and Université de Sherbrooke, among others, on projects focused on the needs and users of living lab experiments for seniors.
The COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children used Paperplane Theapeutics ’ digital therapy technology, which helps to manage pain and anxiety through therapeutic video games and virtual reality headsets.
Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)
There are several ongoing initiatives related to digital health at the CHUM, including:
- Access to information for all the patients of the CHUM (Etienne Plamondon-Émond : email@example.com)
- COVsight : PandemIA’s dynamic graph of medical knowledge (Sarah Jenna : firstname.lastname@example.org Isabelle Moreau : email@example.com)
- Development and integreation of an intelligent stock planning system and intelligent order planning with an accent of PPI in a pandemic context (Julien Giraud : firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Using AI-guided clinic design to maintain safety and quality of care for cancer treatments during and after COVID-19 (Stefan Michalowski: email@example.com)
- Reducing the risk of recurrence for kidney stones by increasing patient adherence to diet and fluid recommendations : a personalized and multimodal intervention strategy (Naeem Bhojani : firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Optimization of outpatient surgery at CHUM thanks to the LeoMed telehealth platform (Florian Robin : email@example.com)
- Prediction of epileptic seizures from intracranial electroencephalographic recordings (Dang Nguyen firstname.lastname@example.org)
Digital health combines medicine, biology, information technology, and sometimes even medical engineering. The universities in Montréal (Université de Montréal, McGill University, Concordia University, UQAM, Polytechnique Montréal and École de Technologie Supérieure) have programs related to these areas.
There are several programs currently available, some intended for analysts, others for practicing professionals and managers. The Specialized Graduate Diploma (“DESS”) and the graduate-level complementary diploma (“microprogramme”) in digital health (in French), offered by the École de santé publique at Université de Montréal (ESPUM), are mainly intended for professionals and managers. These two programs allow students to become familiar with health information systems and technologies, their implementation and evaluation in the health network, with an overview of basic skills related to digital transformation, user experience, legal aspects and project management. An analytical profile is also possible and focuses on health data management techniques and methods, including an introduction to machine learning techniques. A graduate-level complementary diploma (“microprogramme”) in health big data analysis, offered jointly by the Faculty of Medicine, the ESPUM and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, also allows students to become familiar with the analytical aspects in particular.
Students interested in working in this industry are otherwise encouraged to pursue studies in biology, bioinformatics, computer science, biomedical engineering, or information technology and to complete their major in one of the other disciplines. For example, the Continuum program, created in partnership with Pharmabio Développement, Université de Montréal, Qualifications Québec and Collège Ahuntsic, is a continuing education program for individuals with expertise in life sciences or informatics who are intent on developing additional expertise in informatics or life sciences, respectively. Participating in this accelerated, hands-on (internship) program will be an asset to working in the digital health sector.
The Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Development Program, developed by Montréal InVivo with the Faculty of Pharmacy at Université de Montréal and Concordia’s John Molson Executive Centre is a relevant program for anyone interested in starting a business in digital health.
The CHUM School of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare (SAIH) is located at the heart of the CHUM. Its goal is to help implement AI in health care in a real environment by using different means: development of skills and knowledge and their mobilization, as well as the creation of innovations and their validation in a real care environment. These activities are part of building an ecosystem ranging from patients to industries, as well as physicians, researchers and students.
Professions in digital health:
The digital health sector involves various professionals such as specialists in artificial intelligence applied to healthcare, biomedical engineers, bioinformatics specialists, data scientists, biostatisticians, researchers, physicians, nurses and other health care professionals. This sector requires a great deal of collaboration between specialists in the health network, life sciences, and data and technology.
Consortiums and specialized partnerships:
Companies in digital health can count on CTS (Catalyste Technologie Santé) an accelerator in in health technologies (medical technologies and digital health). A non-profit organisation created in 2008, CTS’s mission is to catalyze the growth of companies by offering custom acceleration services during critical stages of commercialization and financing, up to series A funding.
Prompt, the industrial research sectoral group, aims to develop collaborations between researchers and entrepreneurs in the information technology and digital sectors. Prompt also finances projects that emerge from these partnerships. MEDTEQ+, the Québec consortium in medical technologies offers various collaboration and support programs for companies, from the development to the adoption of medical technology innovations in the healthcare network, including their financing.
CQDM, the Quebec Biopharmaceutical Research Consortium, finances collaborative projects between academic researchers and industry for the discovery and development of innovative vaccines and drugs. Their portfolio includes projects in digital health, particularly those funded by the Fonds d’accélération des collaborations en santé (FACS).
The National Research Council Canada (NRCC) has a digital health research program linked to Canada’s digital technology supercluster. The NRCC also provides technical and advisory services in artificial intelligence and data exploration for the life sciences sector.
Centech is an incubator for start-ups in deeptech, including digital health, and supports entrepreneurs from the creation of their product to its commercialization through their two Acceleration and Propulsion programs, and the provision of premises.
The health care stream of District 3 focuses on medical innovation entrepreneurs and assists them throughout the creation of the company, from the development of the products on the premises to its presentation on local and international markets.
AdMare Bioinnovations, with its training activities (adMare Academy), its partnerships with academia and industry, its innovation center, and its financing opportunities, supports companies all along the innovation continuum, from idea to commercialization. Digital health is one of their themes of focus.
Other support organizations:
Numana, mentioned earlier in the digital health initiatives section, is a catalyst for innovation ecosystems. Numana is mobilizing this sector around impactful projects, some of which concern sustainable health through digital transformation.
Digital Health Canada is an association that brings together professionals in the digital health sector. It offers various events to promote the sector, initiatives and companies and networking; as well as a training platform on various topics of digital health.
Medtech Canada represents the medical technology sector. This association has the various objectives of promoting the industry, educating and informing industry stakeholders, providing regulatory guidance to companies and mobilizing the sector through relevant initiatives. Certain medical technologies also belong to the digital health sector.
Showcase on some companies, researchers and structuring organizations that support the ecosystem
Please note that this list of companies is not exhaustive and that some companies may belong to more than one vertical sector. We have made a selection of companies in order to illustrate the strength of Québec’s digital health sector. We have categorized the companies according to 12 vertical sectors in order to best represent the application of digital technologies in the health sector. These verticals are likely to evolve over time.
Some medical technology companies are developing digital health solutions. We have chosen to select companies whose activities focus predominantly on digital health. This separation may be reviewed in the future.