The New Era of Digital Health: TRP students engage with TRANSFORM HF Health Innovators
Home 5 Community 5 The New Era of Digital Health: TRP students engage with TRANSFORM HF Health Innovators

MHSc in Translational Research

The New Era of Digital Health: TRP students engage with TRANSFORM HF Health Innovators

For TRP by Sam Neumark, Kim Crasta, Melanie Yang, Ellis Gao, and Nathalie Trinh | June 2022


On May 3rd, 2022, the TRANSFORM Heart Failure (HF) institutional initiative, a collaboration between the University of Toronto and the Ted Rogers Center for Heart Research, hosted an event at Hart House, where clinicians, researchers, trainees, people with lived experience, and industry representatives came together to tackle the problems of dealing with HF using evolving technologies. Dr. Sacha Bhatia, a Cardiologist & the Population Health and Values-Based Health Systems Executive at Ontario Health, shared his insights on digital health and the future direction of Ontario’s healthcare system.


Two speakers sit on stage to discuss digital health in Ontario while an audience listens.

Fireside chat with Dr. Sacha Bhatia (left) about digital health in Ontario moderated by TRANSFORM-HF’s Dr. Heather Ross (right). Credit: @TransformHF Twitter


As part of this “gathering of the minds”, Translational Research Program (TRP) students: Kim Crasta, Ellis Gao, Sam Neumark, Nathalie Trinh & Melanie Yang attended the event. TRP trainees bring the perspective of evaluating the bigger picture by understanding the parts that make it whole; In the context of healthcare, we consider all the stakeholders in our problem space. Our students make up an important stakeholder piece, the next generation carrying on the torch of improving health, which includes the use of digital resources.


Five students stand arm-in-arm, looking happily at the camera.

TRP Students Natalie Trinh, Ellis Gao, Kimberly Crasta, Melanie Yang, Sam Neumark (left to right).


While it seems like the world took a pause for the last two-years to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the partnership between healthcare and digital platforms kicked into overdrive within a span of a few weeks. Physicians started to consult patients over the phone or videoconferencing and evaluate progress remotely using equipment that uploads health data to the ‘cloud’.

At the TRANSFORM HF networking event, our students participated in small brainstorming groups to stimulate deeper conversations and ideation.


Multiple groups of five to six people sit around tables discussing strategies to problem solve digital health challenges.

Small brainstorming groups discussing strategies to problem solve digital health challenges in heart failure prevention, detection, and treatment. Credit: @TransformHF Twitter


Based on topics submitted by event attendees, groups discussed strategies to increase efficiency and provide equitable care to all people living in Ontario by using remote monitoring technology, such as a smartwatch. Additionally, groups discussed how clinicians could use digital data to diagnose those living in hard-to-reach areas while providing rapid intervention for a condition like heart failure. Through these topics, machine learning & artificial intelligence (AI) terminologies kept coming up. But the real question is, how do we balance the human touch with the expediency that AI provides? While concrete solutions were not the intended outcome of the event, co-creation and interdisciplinary ideation with people with lived experiences brought light to important questions that will propel the field of AI & heart failure medicine. Brainstorming groups formed during the event are being continued to materialize their ideas.


A flip chart displays a page entitle "Ideas Wall". Beside the flip chart, two bulletin boards are covered in colourful sticky notes with topics submitted by attendees.

Ideation wall with topics submitted by attendees to stimulate conversation and ideation throughout the event. The number of dots represent the priority of the topic and served as discussion points for brainstorming groups. Credit: @TransformHF Twitter


Speaking to the TRP attendees, here is what they had to say:

“This was my first in-person networking event since the pandemic. It was so refreshing to meet people face to face and come together to discuss challenges that I am truly passionate about. I am interested to see how we plan to evaluate the engagement of people with lived experience in the delivery of digital heart failure services. Nevertheless, this was a wonderful event to bring people together from all walks of life and have conversations to work towards a truly interdisciplinary approach to care.”Melanie Yang 

“It was evident that the TRANSFORM HF initiative values input from all those that interact with the topic of HF. The pandemic has taught us that if we want to overcome a challenge, there really is only one way…together! I realized we probably had more questions coming out of the conference than going in, however, we can’t progress if we don’t ask the important questions. I’m excited to begin my capstone work which is based on health technologies and gain the input of the various experts I’ve interacted with during the event. Through this work, I hope to advance the field of digital health”Kimberly Crasta

We have clearly conquered the obstacle of virtual care adoption in Ontario. At this event, I learned the next few years will be critical for generating evidence on best practices for our future. One of the ways to fill this gap will be conducting research to answer new questions, such as, what is the optimal modality for providing care to patients to address their medical needs, and when is messaging, calling, or videoconferencing appropriate? There are also notable limitations with digital health relating to privacy, equity, and personal capabilities. Therefore, cross-network collaboration is essential to incorporate a multitude of perspectives while innovating our healthcare delivery. The TRANSFORM HF event was an exceptional example of facilitating innovative thinking as we advance into a new era of integrating digital health technologies into our daily routines.”Sam Neumark

“One focus for the TRANSFORM HF networking event was understanding the advantages and caveats of the rapid transition due to the pandemic, one caveat being the lack of standards and the assessment of practice for the transition among the specialists. The fireside chat and associated Q&A session brought more questions than answers, fueling the informative discussion in the following networking opportunity. This event not only discussed the general forecast for digital innovation projected by experts but also facilitated invaluable interactions to deepen my understanding of the current and desired approaches to patient care through digital innovations.” Ellis Gao 

“It was very eye-opening to learn more about the successes and challenges of Ontario’s transition to digital healthcare during the pandemic and how it translates to the current and future changes in healthcare in Canada. I realized from the discussions at the event that many people are now seeing the value in incorporating the lived experience of people in innovation and research. Being able to use the type of critical thinking and concepts taught in the TRP allowed me to better understand and contribute to these conversations. Overall, I’m excited to see how digital tools become incorporated into healthcare and how we as future knowledge translators will play a role.”Nathalie Trinh