10 LIFESAVING INNOVATIONS COMING TO A HOSPITAL NEAR YOU
Reader's Digest Canada|June 2021
How health-care workers and institutions are revolutionizing surgery, patient care, cancer treatment—and more
Lauren McGill

THE TRAUMA ROOM BLACK BOX

Emergency-room doctors are not so different from the rest of us: they learn best from their own mistakes. But memories aren’t perfect—especially in high-stress situations—and the speed and complexity of what happens in a trauma room can make it hard to recall exact details. To remedy that, the trauma team at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto decided to take a cue from the aviation industry. They installed a black box in their trauma room, allowing them to later pinpoint an exact time when things went right—or started to fall apart.

“This is about reimagining trauma resuscitation so we can get factual feedback on performance,” says Dr. Chris Hicks, trauma physician who helped lead the project. The black box can record everything that happens using 360-degree cameras, wall-mounted microphones and connections to the patient’s vital signs. Once the team finishes working on a patient, doctors can review everything that happened—arming themselves with the skill and knowledge to work on the next trauma patient and, hopefully, save another life.

THE RISE OF TELEHEALTH

Virtual health care has steadily gained traction in Canada since 2015, when Toronto emergency-room physician Brett Belchetz founded Maple, the country’s first national telemedicine platform. Three years later, Canadians completed over one million telehealth consultations—a 500 per cent jump in less than a decade. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has further increased remote visits. In 2020, Maple added more than a million new patients and its consultation volumes tripled.

The platform is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers patients access to a doctor in two minutes or less. Patients can see a doctor either by video, instant message or phone call, depending on their needs— whether it’s an on-screen check-in with a family doctor or a virtual visit with a specialist. Such convenience raises the question: why would anybody want to return to the pre-pandemic system of crowded, boring waiting rooms? Luckily, now many of us won’t have to.

“Around 50 to 70 per cent of medical issues can be treated virtually, without a hands-on physical exam,” says Belchetz. Even better news: the pandemic has prompted some provincial governments, like B.C.’s, to cover the platform’s costs (it operates as a private, fee-based service). This new frontier of healthcare delivery also promises to alleviate hospital staffing shortages and a lack of doctors in rural areas long after the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE ROBOT THAT PERFORMS MASTECTOMIES

Robot-assisted surgery offers patients the hope of smaller incisions, faster recovery and less noticeable scars. In November 2019, Toronto General Hospital received a new robot surgeon—a robotic arm that specializes in mastectomies, a first in Canada. And in February 2020, Dr. Tulin Cil, the hospital’s chair of breast surgery oncology, and her team became the first doctors to successfully perform a robot-assisted nipple-sparing mastectomy.

The use of the robotic arm assists in visualizing deeper into the breast, using a lens and a screen, and dissecting cancerous tissue from its healthy counterpart—enabling a patient to keep their nipple. (In typical mastectomies, the nipple is not spared at all.) The healing process is also faster with the nipple kept intact, allowing a patient to undergo immediate breast reconstruction and gain a more natural post-op appearance—a game-changer for the one in eight Canadians who will experience breast cancer in their lifetime.

THE APP THAT MANAGES YOUR CANCER CARE

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