Ask Rohit Joshi what's the best way to advance patient care in this country and he'll say technology. That's because the Calgary-based innovator is on a mission to prove his case with a breakthrough information-sharing service he and his company-Brightsquid Secure Communications Corp.-have introduced.

Brightsquid's signature product-Secure-Mail-enables medical professionals to share confidential medical information and files with colleagues and patients while meeting strict privacy requirements.

Rohit Joshi, co-founder and CEO of Brightsquid

"What we're doing is sharing medical information faster, easier and in a more compliant manner than ever before," says Joshi, co-founder and CEO of Brightsquid, which has received important funding support from Alberta Innovates (more about this later).

The story behind Secure-Mail goes back nine years ago to a meeting Joshi had with a Calgary radiologist. The doctor needed to share medical images with colleagues in North America. At the time, mailing computer disks or memory drives was the only option-and a very time-consuming one that delayed critical decision making. Joshi quickly saw an intriguing business opportunity.

"There was this compelling problem to solve but also a unique opportunity to combine my interests," says Joshi, who has law and medical science degrees from the University of Calgary and has previously worked at technology companies in Calgary and Seattle.

In 2009, Joshi established Brightsquid and set to work to find a solution.

After studying data privacy legislation and investigating different technical options, he settled on the idea of Secure-Mail. The new product would have all the ease of use of traditional email. At same time, it would be specifically designed to send large medical documents and meet the very latest legal data protection standards. Medical practitioners and patients would be able to log into a secure service to view and share information anywhere there was an internet connection.

After working with developers to create a suitable product, it was soon time to find an initial market. To start, Joshi and his team marketed the product south of the border. By 2014, the company had amassed a network of 6,000 dentists in the U.S, who saw it as a great way to make dental operations more efficient while addressing growing concerns for patient privacy requirements.

With this success and wanting to return the focus to Alberta (he originally grew up in Drumheller), Joshi began to look at ways to introduce the technology to his home province.

To do that, Brightsquid met with Caleo Health, a Calgary back and spine clinic, to arrange to pilot Secure-Mail locally. (Doctors at the clinic had told Joshi they wanted a secure online messaging system to better manage patient appointments.) He also secured funding from Alberta Innovates to hire a healthcare specialist to work with his team to customize the product to meet the clinic's needs exactly.

The plan paid off hugely.

Since the product's introduction three years ago, wait times for patients to get initial assessments have been cut from 18 to 24 months down to six to eight weeks. And instead of spending considerable time mailing and faxing patient records, clinic staff are now handling referrals and communicating with patients easily through a secure, compliant online referral and patient intake system.

Since then, use of Secure-Mail has continued to gain momentum, with more clinics and associations signing on. The Psychologists' Association of Alberta, for instance, is targeting to have 250 psychologists use the service by the end of this year. Across Canada and the U.S., there are now more than 44,000 health professionals and 65,000 patients on the system.

"Last month [October 2018] we hit a million medical messages on the system since it was introduced. Things are happening rapidly," Joshi says.

Steps are underway to extend Secure-Mail further.

In the last two years Brightsquid has built a partnership agreement with TELUS Health, a major technology provider supporting Alberta's health sector. The company now has offices in both Calgary and Toronto, with plans to promote Secure-Mail across Canada.

"We expect that someday, through Secure-Mail, we will be helping millions of patients achieve better healthcare."