The IRAP Team L-R: Ena Ujic, Madeline Cooper, Rebecca Yang

Advancing Digital Health Entrepreneurs

Creating a bridge between start-ups and the health system

Canada has a flourishing digital health sector. Each year, start-ups are producing apps, devices and software that could not only improve patient care but put some of our biggest health system challenges to bed. Despite this progress, a gap remains between the product and the patient. Tech start-ups consistently find it difficult to bring their product to the Canadian healthcare market.

Our system is complex with significant bureaucratic and regulatory oversight. Start-ups are often challenged by non-standard processes, silos of information and demographic variability in the populations served. Bringing new digital health tools into the Canadian healthcare system is not only a technical challenge, it is a regulatory challenge, a funding challenge and a clinical one.

Faced with a growing, vibrant sector that is confronting a myriad of challenges, WIHV provides services to advance Canadian digital health entrepreneurs. Supported by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), a federal program offering advisory and innovation funding support to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the WIHV program provides advice and connections to SMEs through two meetings and a final recommendations report delivered over a four to six week period.

Tailored to each client’s needs, WIHV provides expertise on relevant stakeholders and possible clients; identifies policies that could impact uptake of the product or service; and evaluates existing opportunities for spread and scale across the healthcare system. WIHV provides clients with unprecedented access to insights from clinicians, researchers, policy, health system and business experts who complete a client assessment and provide advice at the final meeting and in the recommendations report.

Since 2016, WIHV has:

  • Met with over 115 companies
  • Provided consulting services to over 30 companies
  • Pursued further opportunities with six of the companies that have gone through the program

WIHV’s signature interdisciplinary approach provides clients with a comprehensive perspective, enabling them to overcome barriers to growth and position themselves in a competitive market. Originally only available to small and medium enterprises in Ontario, the WIHV program has been so successful that it has recently expanded to a national program, ensuring that Canadian digital health small and medium-sized companies across the country have access to this unique service.