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Forging a new frontier in cardiac and vascular care through visionary philanthropy

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Peter and Melanie Munk with Peter Munk Cardiac Centre staff
Peter and Melanie Munk with Peter Munk Cardiac Centre staff after yesterday’s announcement. (Photo: UHN)

It's considered a game-changing tool for healthcare professionals on the frontlines of cardiovascular disease. 

And one that does not yet exist in Canada, where the global epidemic is a leading cause of death.

But the announcement yesterday of a landmark gift of $100 million from the Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) dramatically changes that.
 

"With this donation, we will be able to develop a digital health platform that puts all of our patients' information in one place," says Dr. Barry Rubin, Medical Director, PMCC, part of University Health Network (UHN). 

Building a single, real-time, electronic resource consolidating critical cardiovascular health data – from patient test results, genetic, pathology and imaging information to a physician's notes – is one of the cornerstones of the bold vision to transform cardiovascular care in Canada and beyond.

It's a vision made possible through the single-largest philanthropic gift to a Canadian hospital.

Computer motherboard image
The creation of a digital cardiovascular health platform consolidating detailed information about each patient – from their DNA and medical tests to their physician’s clinical notes – is said to be a game-changing tool in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease.(Photo: UHN/PMCC)

"We will use the massive amount of patient-related data that we generate every day, in a secure manner that respects patients privacy, to coordinate and guide patients' therapies," says Dr. Rubin, a vascular surgeon for more than 20 years.

"Having all of the patients' information in a 'single source of truth', that the patient can access, will truly allow patients to partner with us in their care," says Dr. Heather Ross, cardiologist, PMCC, specializing in heart failure and cardiac transplantation.

Dr. Ross, along with her colleagues at PMCC, cares for some of the most complex and ill cardiac and vascular patients in Canada.

"This [digital health platform] will dramatically improve our ability to coordinate patient care, determine which patients are eligible to participate in clinical trials, and apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to help us predict when patients will have a heart problem before serious problems actually develop," adds Dr. Rubin.

Increasingly, studies have shown that computer learning algorithms, a form of artificial intelligence, are potentially more accurate at predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease than traditional medical models typically used by physicians.

Exploiting artificial intelligence – a process by which computer programs exposed to huge amounts of data can teach themselves in a way similar way to the human brain – is another core component of the PMCC's planned approach to transforming care, which will be pursued in partnership with Toronto's Vector Institute.

Dr. Heather Ross with patient
The combination of patient-specific cardiac and vascular data from a digital health platform with artificial intelligence and machine learning will also support physicians such as Dr. Heather Ross, (above) cardiologist, PMCC, and her colleagues to help patients play a greater role in managing their own care. (Photo: UHN/PMCC)

"The ability to provide precision medicine, therapies specific to the actual 'phenotype' or characteristics of the individual patient, through to monitoring and reducing error, improving the quality of care, benchmarking our program against other international leaders, in addition to the digital cardiovascular health platform – these four critical aspects of the gift will change how we deliver care, how we monitor it and how we improve it," says Dr. Ross.

In all, the Munks' historic philanthropic gift will support four key areas at PMCC:

  • The development of a world-class digital cardiovascular health platform
  • New knowledge generated through first-in-human studies, clinical trials, and evaluation of real world evidence
  • The expansion and strengthening of the precision cardiovascular medicine program at PMCC
  • Medical innovation and quality

"This takes us to a new level of prominence," says Dr. Michael Farkouh, cardiologist, PMCC, specializing in prevention medicine and Chair, Peter Munk Centre of Excellence in Multinational Clinical Trials, one of seven centres of excellence at PMCC. 

"This will attract the attention of the international community because we are taking innovation from PMCC to the rest of the world and not in the other direction. We will attract novel approaches from pharma and device industries because we are truly a one-stop shop." ​

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