From surgery to startup: Off the clock with Dr. John Semple

Professor John Semple

Dr. John Semple
Professor & Surgeon-in-Chief,
Women’s College Hospital

What do you do off the clock?

Family is the biggest part of my life. My wife and I met when I was a resident and we realized that we were celebrating our shared birthday at the hospital. We have four amazing kids that are now exploring their own careers.

I also play keyboard in a jazz/blues band, which means we hang out in sleazy bars on Queen St. from time to time. I sit on the board of governors at OCAD University, and I collaborate with a friend and colleague in the physics department here at the University of Toronto (U of T) to do my part to investigate climate in the Himalayas, which arose from my love of mountaineering.

I’d have to say that my most recent endeavour was co-founding a health technology company, QoC Health Inc.

How did you first become interested in starting your own health technology company?

QoC Health logoIt was primarily because of the change that Women’s College Hospital was going through as it became totally ambulatory. At the hospital, we were developing methods for fast-tracking patients out of hospital. I realized that we knew very little about what the patient experiences once they had left the hospital. We wanted to use existing technology and make it patient-centred and affordable. So we developed an app that monitored the patient’s quality of recovery for surgical patients through this transition using a mobile app.

Since then, we have broadened our horizons. We now use our mobile app to support the transition of different types of patients from hospital to home including the frail elderly and those with chronic diseases.

I was featured in the Faculty of Medicine Dean’s Report in 2012 under the Innovation section, which was pretty cool. Since then we have started a company around the software and have taken QoC Health Inc. from a two-person team with no projects to a 10-person team with multiple sites — adopting our technology to monitor and support transitioning patients.

Beyond this, researchers are now using the data collected on our mobile app to improve clinical care.

What is the most novel aspect of QoC Health Inc?

The design of the technology is patient-centred and uses patient-reported data, which at the time we started was a novel concept. Additionally, we can connect the patient to other care providers like family doctors and home care. We have become a lead in best practices for privacy and security matters related to cloud technology.

It has opened my eyes to the levels of privacy and security that are essential within the realm of health care. A key element is the built-in metrics in programs so that we can aggregate data over time.

Because of our ability to provide a platform for evidence-based care, we have become the platform of choice for a number of research projects. It also has become a great teaching tool for ‘virtual care.’

What (or who) inspires or influences your work?

My patients are the ones that have inspired me the most. They keep me grounded and focused on my goal, which is to always strive to provide better care. My colleagues, with whom I collaborate, are also an inspiration to me — their commitment and work ethic is unparalleled. This includes all collaborators in the things I do: the surgical team, scientific research, my friends in QoC Health Inc. and my musical friends in the band. They all have their own sense of genius.

I believe there is overlap in all these different disciplines, which inspires me to be creative. We have utilized my background in health care and (managing director and CEO) Chancellor Crawford’s background in technology to tread into unchartered territory in which we could not succeed without coexistence. I see virtual care as a major component in the future of health care.