U of T startup Hypercare helps hospitals co-ordinate COVID-19 care

Albert Tai developed the idea for Hypercare, a health-care communications app, while he was a U of T student. The tool is now being used by Toronto's Michael Garron Hospital, among others, to co-ordinate care of COVID-19 patients (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

COVID-19 is forcing health-care providers around the world to adapt old methods and invent new ones to care for people sickened by the novel coronavirus. 

Such is the case at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) in Toronto’s east end, where a digital app called Hypercare – developed by University of Toronto alumnus Albert Tai – is helping health-care staff inside and outside the hospital communicate faster and more effectively. 

“Hypercare enables MGH health-care providers to efficiently and securely collaborate in the care of patients,” says Dr. Patrick Darragh, chief medical information officer at MGH. “This is particularly helpful in the care of COVID-19 patients, which requires co-ordination between many services, such as infectious disease, infection control, respirology and critical care.” 

To illustrate how the app is used at MGH, Darragh describes a typical COVID-19 scenario: An attending physician assesses a patient with COVID-19 and finds her respiratory status has deteriorated. Using the locating feature of the app, the physician sends a Hypercare text to the Critical Care Response Team (CCRT) to alert them that the patient will likely require mechanical ventilation. The CCRT facilitates the safe transfer of the patient to the intensive care unit (ICU), and co-ordinates over Hypercare with the attending intensivist and anesthesiologist for the patient to be intubated upon arrival.

“Before Hypercare, this process of co-ordinating care would require multiple phone calls to an operator, then waiting by a phone for the on-call medical service to be paged and call back, which is very inefficient and slow,” says Darragh. 

Tai says he developed what became Hypercare as part of a course he took in 2016 while doing his master’s degree in information systems and design at U of T’s Faculty of Information. Students were tasked with developing an idea to solve a problem in the health-care sector in a computer science course taught by Mario Grech, Liam Kaufman and Helen Kontozopoulos, while being mentored by physicians Dr. Robert Wu, Dr. Allan Martin, and Dr. Matt Strickland. 

Read more Paul Fraumeni