Dr. Howard Abrams – Innovation in Healthcare

Introduction of guest speaker – Nilam
Dr. Howard Abrams is the Division Head of General Internal Medicine for the University Health Network, and for Mount Sinai Hospital. In addition, Dr. Abrams is a director for OpenLab.
Dr. Abram received a BSc in Engineering from the University of Guelph and his MD from McMaster University. He obtained his specialty certificate in Internal Medicine (FRCPC) while at Toronto General Hospital, and trained in Clinical Epidemiology both at McMaster and the University of Toronto. His expertise is in leveraging his over 30 years on the front-line of clinical care with his experience in optimizing processes to achieve successful integration of innovative solutions into the clinical environment.
Dr. Abrams started his presentation by describing OpenLab.
OpenLab is a design and innovation shop dedicated to finding creative solutions that transform the way health care is delivered and experienced.
OpenLab has a particular affection for low cost solutions, because innovation doesn’t have to be expensive. We are located at the University Health Network (UHN), Canada’s largest research hospital, but our work extends far beyond the walls of UHN. In fact, we view the health system as our lab.
OpenLab is made up of three distinct but inter-related labs. We work on 15-20 projects, at any given time, across the three labs:
COMPLEX CARE LAB – reinventing care for people with chronic disease.
EXPERIENCE LAB – ways to dramatically improve how people experience care.
X-LAB – fresh ideas and perspectives on the future of our health system.
Dr. Abrams asked the question “what is innovation and why it is so hard to innovate in healthcare?”
Our population is aging, putting an increasing strain on our healthcare system. Our healthcare systems are simply trying to keep up with demand, so innovation is overlooked. In addition, these systems are standardized, institutionalized and very risk adverse. If it works, the attitude with many in the system is why change it?
At the other end of the spectrum are younger people who are looking for personalized service, empowerment, and value from their healthcare services. However, the current system is unable, or unwilling to respond.
OpenLab brings together professionals with a broad range of skills to tackle the issues faced by today’s healthcare systems, and by the needs of the future.  These inter-professionals tackle projects using a bottom up approach starting with the end-user. Project costs are managed using lean start-up strategies such as open sourcing software and rapid prototyping.   
A few examples of OpenLab projects include:
Overdose Response Network
OpenLabs is working with users and the harm reduction community to develop a overdose response solution for people who use drugs alone who have no way of reversing an overdose even if they possess naloxone. The project involves users and harm reduction workers as part of a participatory design initiative, leading to the establishment of an overdose response network made up of people who possess, and have been trained to administer, naloxone. The network will be connected by cell phones that will notify nearby volunteer or professional responders in the case of an overdose.
Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS)
PODS is a simple tool and set of process changes that was co-designed by patients and providers in 2014. PODS was piloted in 8 Toronto-area hospital departments spanning adult, pediatric, rehabilitation, acute, and surgery in 2015. Results showed that patient satisfaction scores related to discharge experience increased between 9.3% and 19.4% after PODS implementation.
Oasis T.O.
Oasis is a retirement community in Kingston, Ontario. The senior residents themselves developed and now manage all aspects of programming, including community meals, social activities, an onsite personal support worker, and a participatory decision-making model where all seniors have voice. OpenLab has been working with Oasis since 2015 to study the model, document its progress and practices.
To learn more about OpenLabs, please visit http://uhnopenlab.ca
Joe thanked our speaker.