Note: This is Part 1 of a five-part series highlighting speakers from MaRS HealthKick 2015, an annual pitch competition for health startups at MaRS. Visit the event website to learn more about the program, speakers, jury and startup companies. MaRS HealthKick 2015 is an invite-only event.

Canada’s largest showcase of early-stage health startups, HealthKick 2015 is coming to MaRS on May 7. Organized by MaRS Health, nearly 40 startups will present their business at the annual pitch competition. This year, the event will also explore a key theme that is quickly becoming the underlying movement driving the future of healthcare—patient empowerment.

With new technologies and services, individuals are now empowered to make his or her own choices about their health. MaRS HealthKick 2015 will feature speakers who will address this growing trend in healthcare innovation from hospitals and doctor diagnoses to patient self-awareness, self-diagnosis and self-advocacy.

It should not be surprising that you are your own best advocate, especially when it comes to your health. Yet many people place the management of their health fully in the hands of their doctors and the healthcare system, especially in times of crisis.

Speaker highlight: e-Patient Dave

This reality became clear to Dave deBronkart when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 renal cancer and was told his prognosis was very poor.

With the support of his physician, Dave took matters into his own hands. By networking with other patients he discovered a treatment that in a minority of cases was very effective, albeit with severe side effects. Fortunately for Dave, he responded well to the treatment and his cancer has been in remission for eight years.

Dave’s experience makes a very compelling story for why patients should be empowered and engaged in their own health; you can watch his TED talk to hear him tell it.

Fortunately for others, through his experience Dave became aware of the e-patient movement and became an active participant. (The “e” in e-patient stands for empowered, engaged, equipped, enabled and educated about evidence.)

e-Patient Dave advocates strongly that the relationship between patients and healthcare providers is changing rapidly, driven by the explosion and ready availability of information thanks to technology and other forms of innovation. While patients can now play key roles as partners in the health decision-making and treatment process, there is often resistance to this changing paradigm by members of the medical community.

Dave was recently invited to be a visiting professor of internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic, where he presented his concept of “the new science of patient engagement” at Grand Rounds. Dave welcomes this and other evidence that leading medical thinkers are beginning to endorse true patient engagement.

Dave is a great advocate for the rights of patients everywhere and for the essential role that technology innovation plays in enabling and driving paradigm changes. His contributions as a speaker and panellist at MaRS HealthKick 2015 are highly anticipated.

To learn more about MaRS HealthKick 2015, visit the website or join the conversation on May 7 on Twitter using the hashtag #HealthKick2015.

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Martin Sumner-Smith

Martin Sumner-Smith, PhD, was a senior advisor with MaRS Health Venture Services. See more…