A new program called HaTCH – Health Technology Commercialization Hub – the first health technology accelerator in Calgary – is launching on Thursday to accelerate the commercialization of health tech companies.
HaTCH is powered by Brightsquid Secure Communications Corp., a Calgary-based health tech company with over a decade of success delivering health-care applications to North America and Europe. HaTCH has received funding from the City of Calgary’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) to help catalyze the expansion of the health tech sector in Calgary.
Rohit Joshi, co-founder and CEO of Brightsquid, said the program will help health-care startup companies overcome challenges to get their innovations in the hands of physicians and patients much more quickly.
“The problem that we saw was that health technology companies, including us, hit a mountain of regulatory issues when we were trying to come to market. There’s privacy. There’s security. There’s data governance. There’s patient consent. It’s a list as long as my arm,” said Joshi. “And there’s nowhere we could have gone to say here’s what we have to do in order to make a partnership with Telus Health or here’s the type of rigour we need to make a partnership with a U.S. company.
“So it was really trial by not knowing. And we’d come back and fix things. Now my background as a lawyer helped because I wasn’t going to be dissuaded by that type of challenge. I was comfortable reading legislation. I was comfortable reading regulation. And I was comfortable talking to my developers and telling them how it had to work.
“When we look around the landscape of innovators in health technology it’s a booming opportunity for us to really help the lives of patients in many different ways. But what we saw was massive barriers to these companies that we liked actually getting to market because of all of these things that they don’t know and actually they couldn’t find out unless they were too late or delayed.”
The first cohort of startups (HaTCHlings) developing innovative technology to improve patient care are:
Recently, it was announced that HATCH-YYC would receive up to $1 million over three years from the city’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund.
The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund was launched by the City of Calgary in April 2018 to support investments that spur growth and create jobs in strategic sectors identified in the report Economic Strategy Calgary in the New Economy.
Joshi said the company has a program in place that’s going to take a company that is probably in the prototype stage and accelerate it right to market. He said those companies will be taught about privacy, commercialization and other important elements of entering the marketplace.
“Then we get to plug them into integrations that we already have. The most important one of those is with Telus Health. Telus Health has about half of the doctors in the country on their systems. By agreement we get to plug these companies into the Telus Health network with them never having had to go through a partnership program with Telus Health,” said Joshi. “It’s a pretty amazing that we’ve been able to negotiate with Telus and the goal is not just with Telus. The goal is to do that with AHS (Alberta Health Services) and other significant players in the health technology market.
“We need to make sure before we plug them into anybody that they are up to speed. That they’ve got their policies, procedures and technology in a place where we feel comfortable basically taking the liability and the concern we take that and we plug them into these massive networks that for a good reason are very restrictive on who they let into the playground.”
Joshi said once the accelerator program is in full flight, he expects about 15 companies a year will take part. He said there’s capacity to take the program to other cities such as Edmonton and beyond.
“Right now we’re going to bring everyone to Calgary wherever they are in the country or internationally. It’s interesting. We’ve spoken with two companies now that are considering moving to Calgary to be part of the program,” he said.
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