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Sarah Harvey| CEO | Co-founder | QoC Health, Inc.

By combining excellence in healthcare, business, and technology, Sarah Harvey is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. It is her passion for improving healthcare that has been a constant driving force.

In her role as the CEO and Co-founder of QoC Health, Inc., Sarah’s focus is on the development and implementation of healthcare technologies.

In an interview with Insights Care, Sarah sheds some light on her entrepreneurial journey and how QoC Health is making a difference in the lives of patients everywhere.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Give us a brief overview of your journey in the healthcare sector, and your role at QoC Health.

I grew up in Newfoundland and completed my undergraduate and master’s degrees at Memorial University. From there, I was not exactly sure what I “wanted to be” but was intrigued by the thought of tackling healthcare challenges and improving care experiences.

I then moved to Toronto (in hopes of discovering what I should be!) and one of my first defining roles was in the research department at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. I had mentors that enabled me to see that research can turn into best practices if evaluated and implemented properly. From there, I studied quality improvement methods at IHI and focused my work on hospital performance measurement and supporting a culture of continuous improvement.

Eventually I felt the need to learn more, so I entered the IHPME PhD program at the University of Toronto, with a focus on understanding patient and provider experiences using healthcare apps. During that time, I was invited to be a co-founder of QoC Health with many different roles in health strategy, innovation, co-design, and evaluation.

In 2020, I accepted the role of CEO and I am fortunate to be inspired every day by the talented team at QoC. I cannot say my healthcare journey was predictable, but it would seem my passion for improving healthcare has been a constant driving force and it helps me to focus my work with this incredible company.

Tell us more about QoC Health, its vision, and the key aspects of its stronghold in the Canadian healthcare industry.

QoC Health was founded in 2010 and offers patients, caregivers and healthcare providers adaptable and integrated web and mobile solutions. We strive to provide connected care for patients managing health conditions at home through mobile solutions in acute, chronic, and mental health care.

We have a connected care platform that supports web and mobile app features such as symptom monitoring, goal setting, educational tools, secure patient-provider messaging, video visits and decision aid tools.

Additionally, we have several off-the-shelf solutions such as our post-discharge virtual care tool, and we have the option for our clients to develop new custom solutions leveraging the platform building blocks through a co-design process.

From a business leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the healthcare services sector?

Through the lens of a health technology company, we have seen that the pandemic has forced certain questions to be answered. Historically, the healthcare system in Canada has been slow to adopt virtual connected care solutions, due to a myriad of concerns on items such as data privacy and security, patient/provider willingness to engage in virtual care, and quality of care.

The pandemic has pushed the health system to break down the barriers behind these questions and to address concerns so that we can provide virtual care in the home. It seems the pandemic has kick-started the health system into catching up quickly with respect to the use of mobile technologies. Going forward, we should ensure that we are providing the right support for patients and providers that are using mobile technologies.

What is your opinion on the necessity for healthcare service providers to align their offerings with modern technological developments, especially when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving patient needs and preferences?

I feel healthcare should utilize the tools that patients are accessing in their everyday lives. Today, that means leveraging mobile technologies so that people can receive care through their smartphones, tablets, and computers when appropriate. Through mobile apps we can conduct virtual visits, monitor symptoms, and have access to the right educational materials.

We have shown that in-person health visits are not always necessary and that through the use of mobile technology we can reduce readmissions while improving clinical outcomes and the patient experience.

That said, we also know that not every patient can or wants to use mobile technology and at QoC Health we feel strongly about the importance of providing equitable care through options such as managed devices (i.e., loaned smartphones), and access to technical support for patients and providers.

dditionally, there should always be care options that do not involve mobile technology (i.e., in-person visits, telephone calls) so that care is truly patient-centered.

What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your organization’s daily operations? What efforts did you take to ensure safety of your employees at the same time?

Well, as a company that specializes in virtual care solutions the transition to working from home was fairly easy. Connecting people through technology is what we do! We found that we were able to co-design, develop, test, and implement health apps without the need to be on site in hospitals.

That said, we certainly miss working together in our office and meeting our healthcare colleagues in person. The human side of health technology development is important and so we strive to maintain our usual level of connection through video calls and messaging.

In your opinion, what could be the future of the healthcare services sector post the pandemic? And how are you strategizing to scale your company’s operations and offerings to be prepared for that future?

It seems likely that patients and providers will expect a continuation of virtual care post-pandemic. For many years the health sector has emphasized the importance of reducing in-person visits and the pandemic brings that concept to life in everyday practice. This could mean an increase in triage tools to assist in determining which patients can be seen virtually versus in person.

This type of triage combined with access to virtual care tools such as secure messaging, video visits and symptom monitoring means that we are preparing many of our QoC Health products for large scale implementation.

If given a chance, what is the one thing that you would change about the global healthcare services ecosystem?

I would recommend that we stop re-inventing the wheel. If a healthcare solution exists in one part of the world, we need better methods to scale and spread this solution globally. This would enable patients and providers to have access to best practices more rapidly and it would support effective use of healthcare funding as we would know that researchers and innovators would be working together collaboratively and not duplicating efforts.

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the healthcare sector?

Listen to the feedback you are receiving. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of co-designing innovations with those that will be using the new solution every day. Many of our initial assumptions about how health apps should function were proven wrong as we listened to patients and providers and as we evaluated our apps.