Building a Digital Health Innovation Sandbox

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The eHealth Ontario Innovation Lab was a sandbox environment that allowed digital health developers to work through a significant part of their R&D development in a secure, cost-effective manner. To launch Innovation Lab, eHealth Ontario (now Ontario Health) asked MEDIC to lead the creation of the simulated environment.

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Research Area: MEDIC

Future Ready Challenge

Developing new digital health products is not the same as developing other new software products. There is a key feature that is essential for every new digital health software product that wants to improve patient care in Canada: the product must be interoperable with a wide range of existing products.

A well-designed product should be able to access, exchange and cooperatively use data in tandem with a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR)- all while ensuring patient privacy and security. In some cases- especially for companies that would like to see its product used province-wide- the software will need to handle data and information for upwards of 14 million patients. And, all of this needs to be tested and validated before a product can be sold to a provincial health authority or hospital.

R & D Collaboration

eHealth Ontario (now known as Ontario Health Digital Services) realized that digital health companies faced this challenge and wanted to provide the companies with a solution that would make it easier to design innovative new products for Ontario. eHealth Ontario asked MEDIC to build and host Innovation Lab, an online, open access sandbox environment that provided the necessary tools, APIs, developer portals, and specifications for digital health developers to work through a significant part of their research and product development in a secure, cost-effective manner.

Innovative Results

Launched in May 2016 and available online for almost four years, the Innovation Lab became a multi-jurisdictional Canadian digital health success story, attracting users from 220 organizations, with over 1,500 site visits each month.

"The Innovation Lab, has supported many ground-breaking projects that have advanced electronic health records and connectivity across the province," says Chris Pentleton, Vice President and Chief Architect of Ontario Health Digital Services about the collaboration.

Vendors used it to develop EHR-connected prototypes to support business cases and investment decisions. Software development teams based at provincial organizations in four different Canadian provinces, joined the community of innovators that were sharing resources such as specifications, code samples and guides.

With the Innovation Lab, it’s possible for companies to quickly build, test and scale their products to serve the entire province, troubleshooting their products before they are deployed to hospitals and clinics, resulting in better technology and better patient care.