Open Letter to Minister Bains – Canada’s Innovation Agenda

July 08/16
Patti Ryan

Dear Minister,

Last weekend we celebrated Canada’s birthday!  As we enter our 150th year as a nation, 36 Million citizens strong, let’s look forward.

‘Innovation’ is a frequently heard buzz word at the federal policy level these days and that has all sorts of people optimistically looking to our nations leaders to help us position our economy for growth.


As Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, you announced recently summer-long consultations to develop an Innovation Agenda that includes support for business innovation, research and tax measures that encourage growth.  This is an exciting and important announcement especially for regions like Atlantic Canada that struggle to build economic diversity.

I was a bit surprised to see the first roundtable was held in Mexico.  Not what I anticipated when you declared, “round-table discussions will take place across the country … hosted by leaders who are innovators in their own right.”   But I remain optimistic.  While in Mexico, you were quoted as saying, “Canada’s ability to innovate will define its success as a country in today’s digital economy.”  Great news for companies building export-ready digital solutions that build on Canada’s strength and expertise.  But the ‘digital economy’ is a broad term that captures much of the traditional economy.  Minister Bains, we need to focus on our strengths.       .

This leads me to opening remarks made recently by Perry Eisenschmid, CEO of the Canadian Pharmacist Association at the national conference in Calgary. Mr. Eisenschmid highlighted Canada’s position as a world leader in advanced pharmacy practice, reflecting the continuously growing role of pharmacists in relation to patient care and improving health outcomes for Canadians.  Who knew Canadian pharmacists are global leaders in advanced pharmacy practice?  We are far too modest.

Minister Bains, meet Mr. Eisenschmid.

As we look to our innovation agenda, let’s look to the areas where we are already global leaders. Minister Bains, as you and your team host consultations, make room for a discussion on healthcare. Canada is uniquely positioned to lead in digital health innovation.  The digital health market is expected to reach 233.3 billion U.S. dollars by 2020 driven particularly by the mobile health market.

Government can play a key role in advancing digital health innovation by prioritizing innovation as a cornerstone of creating efficient and effective solutions to some of the ‘pain’ our system is currently experiencing.  This move would serve two purposes: creating innovative solutions for our healthcare system and advancing development in Canada’s digital health sector.

Digital health is a complex regulatory area for development but government can make it easier for companies to work with the system.  To start, (Spoiler Alert:  Minister Bains, this is a summary of my input for your consultation website) mandate Canada Health Infoway to open up their certification assessment criteria and work with entrepreneurs to ensure that new developments meet all privacy and security concerns rather than imposing a burdensome, lengthy and costly process on early stage companies. Sadly, Canada Health Infoway a barrier to digital health innovation right now.

Healthcare is an area of strength for Canada.  We pride ourselves on our publicly funded system but it needs help.  Help that can come from the private sector in terms of innovative digital solutions.  Solutions that can boost Canada’s Digital Health sector.   Solutions that can be exported to other markets.  Markets that view our healthcare system with respect and envious eyes.



Patricia Ryan, CEO