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Dr. Chris O'Connor



The Genesis of a Vision


In the world of healthcare, where compassionate care meets cutting-edge technology, few have bridged the gap as efficiently as Dr. Chris O’Connor. A critical care physician and healthtech innovator, Dr. O’Connor’s journey spans decades of commitment to improving patient care. As the CEO of FirstHx, the founder of Think Research (CVE:THNK) and a Director of Medical Informatics at Trillium Health Partners (THP), he has made notable strides in employing technology to optimize healthcare delivery.


Dr. O’Connor began his career in medicine as a family doctor before specializing in internal medicine and critical care. His dedication to this path was sparked by a very practical problem: writer's cramp. While serving at Trillium in the early 2000s, Dr. O’Connor encountered the cumbersome task of writing dozens of complex orders for patients by hand. This led him to ponder the role that technology could play in simplifying this intricate process.


Revolutionizing Healthcare with FirstHx


Joining FirstHx as the CEO in 2021, Dr. O’Connor aimed to address a long-standing issue: the medical interview or the "history-taking" process. Currently, this process remains largely untouched by technology, yet it is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment. FirstHx now offers an adaptive application on smartphones that replicates the medical interview process, transforming how histories are taken and improving both clinical efficiency and patient satisfaction.


FirstHx boasts a remarkable 95% patient satisfaction rating, a feat Dr. O’Connor attributes to two major factors: relevance and efficiency. "Patients like to be asked questions about their own stories. If the questions are relevant and the process efficient, patient satisfaction is almost guaranteed," he concludes. Their application averages a four-minute completion time for patients to provide comprehensive histories—a stark contrast to the laborious paper forms that often take up to 20 minutes.


Dr. O’Connor believes that tackling the challenges of healthcare extends far beyond the borders of Canada, his home country. "Healthcare systems are inherently complex," he states, "and each country presents its own set of challenges—from translation to local relationships." But these challenges haven't stopped him. Armed with the valuable lessons learned from previous ventures in healthcare informatics, Dr. O’Connor is undeterred. He's seen the commonality of issues across geographical borders, and he's ready for FirstHx to address them globally. This ambition isn't just talk; FirstHx is already being implemented in a chain of pediatric urgent care clinics in the United States and has projects lined up in the Middle East.


When asked about the future, Dr. O’Connor is visibly excited about the sweeping changes he expects to see, especially in the wake of advancements in generative AI. He cautions, however, that the starting point should always be the desired outcome for the patient experience rather than the technology itself. This human-centric approach, combined with a focus on asking patients relevant questions efficiently, has contributed to FirstHx’s impressive 95% patient satisfaction rating.


The future of FirstHx, according to Dr. O’Connor, involves not only expanding into all areas of medicine but also refining patient engagement tools. The objective is to improve the patient experience further while scaling internationally. "We are just at the dawn of this opportunity," Dr. O’Connor shares, brimming with the kind of enthusiasm that can only come from someone who not only sees the problems in a system but also envisions clear pathways to solutions.


Leaders of Care


In the dynamic landscape of healthcare, Dr. O'Connor often looks to individuals who, through their relentless passion and innovative spirit, have left an indelible mark on the industry. At the forefront is Dr. Hanif Chatur, Co-Founder and CEO of eVisitNB. With his pioneering virtual care program in New Brunswick, Dr. Chatur addresses the pressing issue of primary care physician shortages, offering a beacon of hope to many.


Dr. Dante Morra, a visionary leader at CAN Health and THP has been a pivotal leader in steering Canadian healthcare organizations towards new frontiers, always with an eye on leveraging technological advancements. Dr. Mora's commitment to innovation and progress resonates deeply with Dr. O'Connor, embodying the very essence of what it means to be a transformative leader in Canadian healthcare.


Another profound influence on Dr. O'Connor's journey is Dr. Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon and writer. Gawande's "The Checklist Manifesto" isn't just a book; for many in healthcare, it's a blueprint for optimizing processes and ensuring patient safety. The insights from this work have been instrumental in shaping Dr. O'Connor's approach to healthcare delivery.


Navigating the Entrepreneurial Path


For physicians contemplating the leap into entrepreneurship, Dr. O’Connor offers candid advice: "jump in." He acknowledges that the entrepreneurial journey isn't for everyone. It's fraught with challenges, uncertainties, and moments of self-doubt. However, for those who embrace it, the rewards are manifold. It's a journey of continuous learning, personal growth and most importantly, an opportunity to make a tangible difference in the world of healthcare.


Dr. O’Connor exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur and a ‘Hero of Care’. Through his roles at Think Research and FirstHx, he has blended his clinical expertise with his vision for technology-aided healthcare. His initiatives have not only optimized medical procedures but also expanded the horizon of what healthcare can achieve. As he aptly puts it, good things happen when technology meets compassion and efficiency. Indeed, in the evolving landscape of healthcare, Dr. O'Connor stands as a beacon of transformative change.


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