A lot of the stumbling blocks to building software for governments, particularly for the health sector, come from the security and regulatory bodies that prevent testing in the actual network. With all of the sensitive data contained, it’s hard to just let any company stroll in and roadtest its latest solution, no matter how ground-breaking it might be.
Hamilton, Ont.-based Mohawk College saw that not as an insurmountable challenge, but as an opportunity. Ted Scott, chief information officer at the college, said the project came about partly due to the college’s history of innovation in the health and technology. The college “is now plugged in to the highest levels of eHealth in Canada,” he said. “For us, it allows us to basically scale what are amazing learning opportunities for our students and position them on the leading edge of the work force opportunities going forward.”
He also said it’s incredibly fortuitous that the college’s “functional reference implementation of the national eHealth information system,” is ready now, as it’s just in time for another large project for the Ontario government. “Right now, Ontario is in the process of establishing a functional jurisdiction class representation of that in Ontario,” he said. “The first subset of that will be the so-called ConnectingGTA project. Once that infrastructure is deployed … it changes the business model around for applications and innovations because now hospitals are no-longer necessarily the sole customer for technology. Now you can deploy all new kinds of applications province-wide.”
That means that, not only can businesses come and test eHealth projects on the infrastructure, they could also test other governmental software on it too.
This flexibility for the platform attracted Ottawa-based Coral CEA, a non-profit collective that consists of member companies and organizations that focus on creating commercial products for the governmental world in Canada. In addition to occasionally providing funding for the project, Coral CEA member companies have been a large portion of the users of the platform.
Brian Forbes, Coral CEA’s executive director, said the platform at Mohawk is incredibly unique. “What Mohawk has done is that they’ve created a certification facility for the Canada Health Infoway architecture that provides some of our member companies the ability to accelerate their development on a number of different fronts and hopefully create new applications as well,” he said.
Forbes said this has allowed a lot of collaboration between Coral CEA and Mohawk. “Not only could we (now) come in to Mohawk in terms of our official capacity and look at potentially helping some of the student teams commercialize products that they were developing but also, in terms of Mohawk offering value back to some of our existing members in Ottawa.”