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Working At Techna

What it’s been like working at Techna for the past 10 years and our teams’ major successes

Data Science Team

Who We Are

The Data Science team is a multi-disciplinary team that supports the Princess Margaret Data Science (PMDS) Program, by building informatics resources and developing innovative data science methods to advance cancer research, optimize patient care and improve patient outcomes. The Data Science team focuses on tools that enable the FAIR Principles of data in healthcare, standardization and aggregation of big data and the translation of AI in Health.

Our Team

data science team

Our major successes

Core Systems

The data science team is continuously working to support the FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability) principles of data management. The PMDS core projects embed these principles in their provision of support to the PM research community.  Our core projects include:

  • Research Data Storage (RDS) Tool: The RDS Tool is a web-based application for managing large, primary research data files and their meta data that do not have a natural home.
  • Biospecimen Portal: Biospecimen Portal is a web-based application that enables UHN researchers to search for biospecimens across multiple, participating repositories of human-derived samples.
  • Tumour Model Tracker: Tumour Model Tracker is an application for tracking the Short Tandem Repeat (STR) analysis of patient-derived samples and model-derived (organoid and xenograft) samples.
  • MIRA Imaging Platform: The MIRA Imaging Platform offers a framework for developing and deploying imaging pipelines to facilitate the training of machine learning (ML) algorithms.
  • PM Integrated Dashboard: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PMDS spearheaded an initiative to create a responsive, integrated dashboard that provided updates and information in real-time. Details on patient visits and referrals, enabled the PM Executive and COVID-19 Steering Committees as well as the Site Leads and Program Managers to make data-driven informed decision as the PM was adjusting to virtual care.

Catalyst Projects

The data science team supports the PMDS Catalyst Projects that advance data science in areas such as multi-modal data integration, automated quality control pipelines, machine learning development, clinical integration of predictive models, natural language processing, and multi-modal data analysis.  Click here to learn more about our current catalyst projects.

National and International Collaborations

In parallel to advancing our core and catalyst projects, we are positioning the PMDS Program as a hub for local, national, and international collaborations. We will be contributing expertise and infrastructure development to the national Digital Health and Discovery Platform (DHDP), an essential component of the TFRI-led Marathon of Hope Cancer Centre Network (MOHCCN) initiative. We have also established new, exciting initiatives with partners like Alberta Health Sciences and Maastro to advance data science in the areas of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and federated learning technologies.

Engineering Team

Who We Are

We focus on multi-disciplinary engineering and technology development.

Our Team

What is it like to work at Techna?

Working at Techna is fast paced. There are lots of challenging and rewarding opportunities. We have a great engineering team that’s always learning and pushing themselves, and engaging end users that are generous with providing many insights and input across project lifecycles.

Our major successes

Telemonitoring

Telemonitoring program started off as a single unit pilot in 2016 to evaluate the use of network video monitoring to monitor multiple patients remotely. The idea was to use monitoring technology to provide the same level of quality care while reducing the costs associated with constant bedside observation.

We’ve demonstrated a remote observation technician can effectively monitor up to 6 or 7 patients simultaneously. From a centralized location, the remote observation technician is able to watch and redirect patients to avoid falls and / or adverse events, and escalate to a nurse to help attend if redirection is unsuccessful.

Telemonitoring is now live across all UHN inpatient units and have progressively reduced fall rates each year. Telemonitoring’s also reduced inpatient waitlist mortality for lung transplant patients from 21% to 5%. During COVID, Telemonitoring helped increase L2 capacity on COVID inpatient units through the rapid expansion and integration with vital sign monitors.

Telemonitoring have demonstrated cost savings of ~$1.9 million in the last fiscal year. We’re now focused on expanding Telemonitoring services to long-term care centres and other external partner sites.

Surgility

The Surgility program started in 2019 to better enable technology pathways and innovation across operating rooms and surgery care units.

Projects within the portfolio highlight diverse, innovative ideas from our clinical leads, and many ways in which engineering design and technology address gaps and challenges.

In September 2021, we worked with Unither Bioélectronique, Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ajmera Transplant Centre, and the Toronto Lung Transplant Program to complete the world first lung transplant delivered by drones. This effort will widen the availability and access of donor organs through an autonomous aerial transportation network. It will provide faster end-to-end delivery from hospital to hospital over traditional retrieval, which uses slow commercial or costly charter flights and has multiple waypoints between hospitals.

We helped scope site selections and preparation of takeoff and landing areas, operation process models and protocols for deployment of internal and external teams, design and build of take-off and landing platforms, and optimize access and flow between areas with Security and Facilities.

Learn More About Surgility

PACDASH (Preadmission Clinic Dashboard)

With the onset of the pandemic, a better communication tool was needed for interdisciplinary teams to manage virtual visits and help triage more volume to help with surgical backlog. Working with Surgical Services and TGH / TWH pre-admission clinics, Techna Transformatics and Surgility teams helped design, develop, and implement a new dashboard tool to better provide visibility of appointment status across provider roles and enable team communication in a hybrid on-site and virtual environment.

Finance Team

Who We Are

Arthur Wong, Elyse Li, Jung Ahn, Ida Bejelia, Mansi Panchamia

Our Work

As a part of RFS and in partnership with Techna and UHN Research and Innovation Cores, our team supports all finance-related matters at Techna Institute, Techna Technology Development Team, and the Cores.

What is it like to work at Techna?

It’s challenging working with a number of stakeholders, but very rewarding as we get to know and work with many talented folks. My thanks to the management team for making our work easy — everyone is taking accountability for their portfolio, this allows us to grow and become better!  Thank you to my team for the hard work and dedication, and making Techna fun to work at!

Our Major Successes

My team works collaboratively with all the Techna managers on finance-related support. This includes invoicing, financial reports, forecasting, and budgeting. Our role is to provide appropriate guidelines and models to help guide decision making. Techna team has a strong financial performance.”

Health Informatics Research Team

Who We Are

The Health Informatics Research (HIR) team has extensive experience working in close collaboration with clinicians and scientists to develop innovative IT solutions to improve the quality of complex care and enable clinical research.

HIR has led the design, development and deployment of many local, national and international Health IT initiatives. These solutions include point-of-care outcomes collection, electronic clinical documentation, data workflow and integration, data modelling and health ontologies, patient reported outcome systems, and virtual care technologies.

Our Team

Our major successes

eCancerCare

eCancerCare

The eCancerCare solution bridges the gap between clinical and research data collection. eCancerCare is a secure web-based platform that allows for collection of high quality research data at the point-of-care with components that enable electronic clinical documentation, dynamic diagram annotation, real-time data integration and disease specific patient timelines.  eCancerCare has a robust clinical data model that uses international standards for data coding to allow for optimal interoperability.  The systems is used by hundreds of users, including physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and researchers.  Data collected in eCancerCare has contributed to over 100 research projects.

WATChmAN

“WATChmAN” which stands for Web-based virtual Testicular CANcer clinic, is a secure, online solution that enables asynchronous virtual cancer follow-up for testicular cancer patients. We worked closely with Dr. Rob Hamilton to design and develop both the patient and clinician facing applications that facilitate asynchronous communication of the required lab and imaging tests for the virtual clinic.  WATChmAN won The 2019 TD Ready Challenge: Reshaping the future of healthcare, and we continue to work with Dr. Robert Hamilton on advancing the model for asynchronous virtual cancer care.  Read more about WATChmAN: A randomized trial of virtual surveillance versus standard in-person care for clinical stage I testicular cancer.

VCMS

The Virtual Care Managmeent System (VCMS) is a secure digital solution to facilitate the widespread adoption of virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  Our team worked closely with Dr. Alejandro Berlin and the Smart Cancer Care team to rapidly develop VCMS, providing an easy to use digital platform to safely manage the data flow and communication between the care team.  VCMS leverages core Techna technologies that enable data integration and site specific customizations. There are over 700 users that have used VCMS to manage over 50,000 patients, providing safe and timely virtual care to cancer patients. Read more about how VCMS contributed to Implementation and Outcomes of Virtual Care Across a Tertiary Cancer Center During COVID-19.

PC360 & CanRehab

PC360 & CanRehab

Our team has worked closely with Dr. Jennifer Jones, Director of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship Program over the last 10 years to advance cancer survivorship with the use of digital solutions.  We started by developing an electronic suvivorship care plan solution that integrates diagnosis and treatment data to deliver personalized care plans to patients in active follow-up.

The successful pilot project has expanded into a national evaluation trial at other cancer centres in Canada, where Techna led the customization and deployment of the platform at each participating cancer centre.

We continue to work with Dr. Jones on developing the Reach App, an innovative electronic prospective surveillance and decision support system for cancer rehabilitation.

CPD by the Minute

An innovation for Continuing Professional Development in collaboration with Dr. Peter Slinger and Dr. David Wiljer.

The CPD by the Minute platform provides registered trainees and staff a short knowledge assessment comprising of expert questions that are delivered through a Progressive Web Application (PWA).

Each question must be answered within a 60 second time limit, includes a measure of confidence and relevance, and provides content references.

HIR developed a scalable platform to customize and manage question content, with a flexible delivery approach to support different cohorts.

National and International Initiatives

The HIR team at Techna has been at the forefront in leading the technical development of several national and international data initiatives.

We have designed, developed and continue to support CKCis, a national registry intended to support the development of clinical and basic research in kidney cancer across Canada. CKCis currently is collects data from 15 sites across Canada, with over 15,000 unique patients, and has contributed to over 30 research publications.

The Canadian Myeloma Research Group Database, was developed in collaboration with the clinicians, researchers and patients to collect real world data on myeloma patients.  Just a few years after the database launched, it is now one of the largest and most comprehensive databases of myeloma patients in the world, with data on over 8000 patients across 17 sites in Canada.

The HIR team has played a pivotal role in support of the multi-site PRO-ACTIVE trial in collaboration with Dr. Rosemary Martino and Dr. Kate Hutchenson.  Techna was able to architect a novel solution that collects and integrates clinical data, patient report outcomes and imaging.  Allowing multi-disciplinary teams to manage the study data across multiple institutions in the US and Canada.

PRO-ACTIVE

Marketing and Communications Team

How it started

The Techna Web & Marketing team started with a simple problem: a brand-new institute needed its own webpage, as well as other design tasks, such as a logo, posters, and signage. The new website impressed many people, who asked how they could get a website that looked like that, and we saw an opportunity.

Our team soon began working on websites and design projects for other groups, allowing Techna to build a team of designers, programmers, editors, and writers so that it would have their skills as a resource for projects when needed, while covering our time through external projects the rest of the time.

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What we’ve done so far

Our team has designed and launched many websites for research groups and companies, and created marketing materials and posters to help promote UHN’s services, teams, and projects. Our design expertise has also been called upon to create the posters and pamphlets for Techna’s annual Symposium, and to help design the user experience for major Techna and UHN software development projects such as Cancer Informatics. We completed numerous special projects for UHN, including the Renewing UHN strategic review and infographics for proposals to major donors.

Our expertise

When a start-up company needed a technical manual for their software platform, they turned to Techna to help write and design it. Techna had the right combination of expertise — scientific/technical writing, editing, and design — and was able to provide the expertise and experience of full-time employees on a freelancer contract basis.

What is working at Techna like for us?

For Techna’s Web & Marketing team, working at Techna is a mix of the freelancer gig life and a steady day job: we have a regular full-time job, but get to work on a variety of interesting projects for a mix of internal and external clients.

Quantitative Imaging for Personalized Cancer Medicine (QIPCM) Team

Who We Are

QIPCM is a research core within TECHNA Institute that collaborates with their clients to optimize solutions as per client needs to drive multi-center imaging trials and attain critical success factors that are within the requisite guidelines of the regulatory authority.

The inception of QIPCM took place in 2013. Several of QIPCM members have been with UHN for while. In addition, QIPCM actively collaborates with several members of TeamUHN.

Our Team

Julia Publicover, Brandon Driscoll, Tina Shek, Michael Andersen, Jenny Lee, Shailaja Sajja, Ivan Yeung, Harry Keller, Doug Vines, Catherine Coolens and Edward Taylor

What is it like to work at Techna?

Our Services

QIPCM provides a host of services, which include imaging data de-identification and transfer, centralized storage with remote access, imaging protocol development, novel image analysis tools development, as well as imaging data curation and feature extraction for large-scale imaging research studies.

Our major successes

From its inception in 2013 to current times, QIPCM has achieved various milestones towards solving problems relevant to the imaging research community.

Centralized Image Collection, Review and Analysis

Problem: It is often challenging to have centralized access to images for the purposes of review and analysis particularly in multi-centre clinical trials, which involves sites and principal investigators, spread out geographically.

How we solved it: In order to simplify the workflow for de-identification, transfer and centralized image collection from centers around the world, QIPCM provides remote image review and access through two options:

(a) Virtual desktop infrastructure through VMware. This technology enables trial investigators globally to remotely access the central image repository and perform image analysis using the existing tools or by installation of additional tools.

(b) Image access via Web based DICOM viewer. The viewer is based upon the open source viewer OHIF with additional functionality provided by the QIPCM team. Central image review and analysis for global investigators is possible through this option as well. All image data remains within the QIPCM/UHN network with both options. The first version of the webviewer was released in 2021 and will serve as a cost-effective solution for large studies such as PATRON, which will include 15 Canadian sites and 770 patients.

To date QIPCM has hosted 61 Clinical Trials and have collated 30.6 million images. QIPCM has thus far centralized close to 110,000 de-identified image studies (from approximately 10,500 patients), which have been collected from imaging centres across five Canadian provinces and from across the United States, Europe and Australia. QIPCM maintains an extensive and comprehensive quality management system (QMS).

Theranostics Research and Development

The NET-PRRT theranostics trial (clinical trials.gov identifier NCT02743741) led by Dr. Rebecca Wong aimed to show that individualized dosimetry for patients being treated with 177Lu-DOTATATE  could enhance the treatment efficacy while reducing toxicity in a multi site clinical trial.

QIPCM designed and conducted proprietary dosimetry, centralized image, and enabled review for an Ontario NETs trial for individualized 177Lu-DOTATATE therapy. The trial IP was licensed to POINT Biopharma (Ontario startup) for global commercialization.

External Research Initiatives Participation

QIPCM is continuously engaged in clinical imaging research and standardization initiatives. QIPCM is a part of the imaging program under the adaptive oncology initiative, which is a part of OICR. QIPCM is an active member of the NIH’s Quantitative Imaging Network (QIN) and is the only member outside of US. The QIN initiative revolves around hypoxia, which has a unique role as a microenvironmental factor and biomarker that is relevant to both the fundamentals of tumor biology and clinical prognosis.

Relevant innovations lie in (i) integrating a robust, co-registered measure of hypoxia; (ii) creating a common framework for assessment; and (iii) integrating quantitative methods into clinical research on outcomes, molecular biomarkers, and imaging data from across multiple, concurrent clinical trials. Associated innovation include the refinement of image acquisition methods and the development of analytic tools that can be shared to enable multi-institutional clinical research studies.

Improving imaging research outcomes through standardization

Problem: Multicenter clinical trials involve interpreting and analyzing imaging scans from sites from multiple institutions around the world.  Variation in scanner and imaging protocols can lead to wide variations in image quality, which may result in poor quality data.

How we solved it: QIPCM has been involved in many imaging standardization initiatives including performing QA & characterization of multi-site PET-CT scanners for multi-site clinical trials. QIPCM has also worked with Hypoxia imaging leaders towards harmonizing FAZA-PET scan acquisition protocols.

Transformatics Team

Who We Are

The Transformatics team partners with multi-disciplinary stakeholders – clinical, research, industry – to bring forward solutions to meet clinical and research needs. The team leverages expertise in health informatics, technology innovation and project management to bring forward clinical transformation. This past year, we’ve reflected on how best to describe our work and rebranded to be the Transformatics team.

Our Team

How we feel about working at Techna?

Techna has a culture of continuous learning and growth. In professional development and in the variety of projects we take on, the challenges are welcome and learning is celebrated. The approach to teamwork is all about collaboration, being open-minded to new ideas, and sharing in each other’s wins – we grow together and succeed together. And of course, we lunch together! Team socials often involve trying out different restaurants in Toronto.

We get to work on all sorts of projects, at different phases and throughout the innovation pipeline. There’s always a variety of task types and new projects are ripe with opportunity – we could be lending project management expertise for a project just getting off the ground, working on building out technology to solve a clinical need, or assisting with current processes with an existing technology. And our partners in these projects vary from front-line clinical staff to senior leadership, UHN researchers to external vendors. Often times we are the bridge between these stakeholders. We wear different hats in different projects – what we try on next might be something completely new, which keeps us on our toes.

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Our major successes

Our team’s successes lie in the breadth of our skillset across the team and the commitment to projects across ideation to implementation phases. Our team has built relationships with the clinical and research groups we’ve worked with, creating a reputation of excellence in rapid response, technology co-development, operations, as well as project initialization.

Rapid Development to Support Pandemic Response

Some projects respond to a clinical need that requires an immediate solution. For example, the SWIMS platform responded to the need to centralize the surgical waitlist at UHN during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surgical offices dedicated hours to surgical data entry and report creation that involved manual work, redundancies and inconsistent processes. Sharon Narine and Kelly Lane worked with clinical stakeholders and our development team to leverage existing data from the surgical booking system to surface meaningful surgical data. During the pandemic SWIMS provided surgical offices with insights into accurate surgical backlogs and volumes amid OR shutdown. Another example is our PAC DASH project, which stemmed from the need for improved visibility of patient status and clinician involvement with the patient during virtual care visits. Meera Vignarajah and Agata Misiura worked with the Surgical Preadmission Groups at Toronto Western Hospital & Toronto General Hospital and the Surgility team at Techna to build a dashboard that could centralize communication and easily track patient flow. The result was a real-time view into patient status for the whole team providing care, improving provider experience as well as multi-disciplinary communication and coordination.

Technology Co-Development with Vendors

Our team also collaborates with vendors to co-develop their technology, providing a link to clinical insights and collaborating on the development process. An example of one such success is the co-development of RaySearch’s Oncology Information System, where there was a need for clinically-informed business requirements for further development. Melissa Kozak, Meera Vignarajah, Agata Misiura, Paige Gilbank and Kelly Lane helped provide end-user insights into functionality through user experience testing and mapping out clinical workflows to inform the development of the system.

Project Initiation

At the start of the ideation to innovation spectrum, our team has partnered with clinical groups to help kick-off large-scale innovation projects. Two key successes were the Integrated Comprehensive Care project and the Business Case for Digital Pathology. For tThe Integrated Comprehensive Care project responded to the need for a patient-focused, integrated care pathway that aligned with a new funding model that required coordination between hospital and post-acute care.

Meera Vignarajah, Agata Misiura, Paige Gilbank and Kelly Lane worked with the Hip and Knee Surgery team at Toronto Western Hospital to map existing patient pathways, understand pain points and identify opportunities to address them. As this project continues into its next phase, Linda Eum is continuing to work with the TWH team.

The second success to highlight in this category is the compilation and presentation of the business case for implementing digital pathology at UHN. To undergo a department-wide adoption of digital pathology technology, first a business case is needed that articulates the incentives, risks and costs of implementation as well as what to expect in the project plan. Paige Gilbank and Kelly Lane worked with the Digital Pathology Lead from UHN’s Laboratory Medicine and Pathology Department to compile the comprehensive business case and present it to senior leadership, with support from Meera Vignarajah and Melissa Kozak. The department will be moving forward, currently securing funding before initiating the next phase of the project.

Operations Support

Finally, at the other end of the spectrum, our team supports the operations of the provincial Rapid Access Clinics for Low Back Pain. This provincial program had a need for sustained support for end-users, including physiotherapists, chiropractors and central intake admin staff when our team joined. Agata Misiura, Linda Eum, Paige Gilbank, Meera Vignarajah, and Kelly Lane provide support for end-users and establish standard operating procedures to support the clinical software being used. The team engages in continuous improvement of the software platform by bridging user feedback and vendor development in order to implement processes to improve end-user experience.