Vaughan Rising Podcast – Canada’s First Smart Hospital

This blog is a summary of the Vaughan Rising Podcast Season 1 Episode 6 by the host, Michelle Samson. For more detail, listen to the full episode (links below).

About the episode

Vaughan, a city of about 335,000 people, is welcoming the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital in 2020. Back in 2004, the need for a hospital in the city was clear and work began to build York Region’s first new hospital in 30 years. President and CEO Altaf Stationwala shares how Mackenzie Health saw an opportunity to be on the vanguard of healthcare and become Canada’s first smart hospital.

Thoughts from the host

Vaughan is welcoming its first hospital. The Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital is scheduled to open in late 2020 and will become Canada’s first smart hospital.

This is another milestone project happening in Vaughan that is attracting wide-range attention and building the city’s reputation as the place to be.

Mackenzie Health, the regional healthcare provider building the hospital, saw an opportunity to be on the vanguard of healthcare and took it. This wasn’t an overnight decision; they have been testing and adopting innovative practices for years.

But what is a smart hospital, and what does that mean for patients? To find out, I invited Mackenzie Health’s President and CEO Altaf Stationwala to the podcast to tell us.

Mr. Stationwala joined Mackenzie Health in 2010 after building his career in hospital administration at Etobicoke General Hospital, William Osler Health System, and Mount Sinai Hospital. He came on board just as the project to have a smart hospital was starting to transition from an idea to a plan, working with the community and all levels of government to make it happen.

Meanwhile, he was also managing the rest of Mackenzie Health’s portfolio, which includes Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital and seven other community-based locations.

While the Vaughan site is attracting attention with the upcoming smart hospital, much of its technology was tested in existing locations.

Mr. Stationwala says Mackenzie Health knew it would be acquiring equipment for the new hospital and decided to test the technologies in advance at existing hospitals. This experience inspired the creation of the Mackenzie Innovation Institute. The institute works with healthcare equipment providers to facilitate testing in exchange for deploying it to Mackenzie Health locations first.

Mackenzie Health took another step forward in building a smart hospital when it adopted an electronic medical record system. It was the first of its kind in Canada, and they became the first Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) Stage 7 acute care hospital in the country. The project won the prestigious Davies Award of Excellence for significantly improving patient care.

Relative to the rest of the network, what sets Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital apart is that it will take all of these technologies and make them talk to each other in streamlined processes.

Mr. Stationwala uses a “code blue” as an example. A code blue is a cardiac arrest that’s happening somewhere in the hospital. Traditionally, it is announced over the hospital’s PA system and assigns staff to stop what they’re doing to deliver CPR to the patient. It is a process in which staff may face many obstacles en route to the patient. In a smart hospital, the process will be automated. As soon as the patient’s monitors show signs of cardiac arrest, staff are silently paged, the bed is automatically lowered to CPR position, medication pumps are stopped, and doors and elevators are open and ready as they move through the hospital.

What does this mean for patients? Mr. Stationwala says, “It saves precious minutes and seconds, which is heart muscle and, in effect, brain tissue.”

Mackenzie Health will be developing a number of these streamlined processes. Some are building on best practices that already exist in other hospitals, while others are first of their kind.

Mackenzie Health is also taking inspiration from industries beyond healthcare. Already at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, patients register at a kiosk similar to those seen at airports. They swipe their OHIP card and receive a printout with a map and directions to their appointment.

Mr. Stationwala says in an era of five-second restaurant reservations, patients and families expect this kind of quick service. Taking further inspiration from the restaurant industry, patients will be able to order food from a bedside portal. The portal will also be educational, giving patients the ability to learn about their conditions and procedures.

The goal is to make processes more efficient so that staff have more time to interact with patients and families.

These new technologies and processes have a lot of promise, but they need to work from day one. Mackenzie Health experienced a similar transition when it moved to electronic health records. They did extensive training, rehearsals and troubleshooting – and the system worked. They’ll take the same approach on a larger scale for Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital.

It’s been a long time coming, but the hospital is finally rising from the ground and construction is well underway. Now, Mackenzie Health is hiring 2,000 new staff.

Altaf is a busy man but still finds time to enjoy Vaughan’s restaurants. His top picks are Peperoncino Trattoria (also known as The Hot Pepper) at 200 Whitmore Rd. in Woodbridge and La Taquizza at 3175 Rutherford Rd.

This episode was recorded in the green-screen room at the Civic Centre Resource Library. For more information on Vaughan Public Libraries’ creation spaces, visit