Health Care for the Future: Saskatchewan Tech Companies on the Cutting Edge

Our health is something we often don’t give much thought too, until we get sick or injured. And, most of us have a story or two about a long wait in the emergency room or waiting room when we do need the help of medical professionals. However, there are people thinking about health care, how to make it better, and how to reach people when and where they need care. The technological revolution we’re living in is leading to major advances in how health care is delivered, and two Saskatchewan companies are on the forefront.

TinyEYE Therapy Services

TinyEYE Therapy Services, located at Innovation Place in Saskatoon, saw a need to improve how speech therapy services were delivered to rural and remote students more than a decade ago. Founders (and siblings) Greg Sutton and Marnee Brick built a tech company that now delivers speech therapy and occupational therapy services to children and youth via the internet. Today, TinyEYE brings kids and therapists together around the world—saving time and money and ensuring that kids who need the help get it.

Sutton, now the fourteen years working in health care tech, sees the many unexplored opportunities that still exist in health care, and how tech can help. “Typically, we as North Americans deal with our health reactively, instead of proactively,” he says. “However, there is a growing movement focused on prevention instead of just treatment.” He sees technology as means to monitoring health and identifying issues before they become a problem. “There are many apps and tech solutions being developed now that people and health care providers can use to help themselves and patients do better with their health.”

Sutton also sees how tech can bring health care providers together to share ideas, research and more, to improve health care delivery and patient care. “In our own company, we see how bringing therapists together can create a culture of collaboration that benefits clients,” says Sutton. “We’re working on a micro-level to increase this knowledge share in our network, and I can see the major opportunity for tech to bring health care professionals together to cooperate and share skills and ideas.”

For TinyEYE, using tech to bring health care to the people that need it continues. The company is now turning its attention to using its technology to link people with mental health resources, such as therapists, online. “We’ve have had great success with speech therapy and occupational therapy, and there is such a need for accessible mental health services,” he says. “We’re running pilots now to see how we can use tech to help even more people get the help they need.”

Luxsonic Technologies Inc.

Like TinyEye, Luxsonic Technologies Inc. is based in Saskatoon—and on the cutting edge of technology in health care. The company is using virtual reality to bring health care where it’s needed. “It can be challenging to provide high quality healthcare services to remote and rural areas,” says founder Dr. Mike Wesolowski. “We’re developing technologies that will allow specialists to bring their expertise to any part of the province, virtually. Our goals are to improve access to high quality patient care while improving cost savings for the healthcare system.”

Luxsonic has developed SieVRt, a virtual reality medical imaging system that radiologists could use to connect to remote imaging centres and provide services. “We’ve built the radiology reading room of the future without having to physically build it because it exists in virtual reality,” he says. “The system allows multiple specialist to consult on patient cases, collaborate and one day to provide diagnosis, without ever being in the same place.” Luxsonic is currently working on Health Canada approval for their product and has pilot clinical validation studies at the Royal University Hospital and Hamilton Health Sciences.

In partnership with health care providers in Saskatoon, Luxsonic has also developed a VR application that allows pediatric patients to “experience” an MRI scan from the time they arrive at the hospital until the procedure is over. “The idea is to familiarize the young patient with the procedure, which works to reduce anxiety, and hopefully the need for sedation,” says Wesolowski. “By using our technology, as part of the preparation for an MRI, kids get to see what will happen before it happens to become more comfortable with the procedure.” Luxsonic is in the midst of trials for the technology, and early signs suggest the MRI simulation is working well.

Like Sutton, Wesolowski sees that the sky is the limit for health tech in Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada. “Technology and innovation can help solve many of the issues facing healthcare in the province. We can create tech that improves health care outcomes, but we need more clinical champions to recognize the value of innovation and push for the adoption of new technologies,” he says. “That can be a challenge for healthcare systems, but we’ve seen the desire for improvement through innovation grow in Saskatchewan and we’re there to meet the need.”