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Helix is here to serve: international competition improves website digital agent

BC Cancer’s digital agent was the focus of CaseIT, an international undergraduate Management Information Systems case competition.
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​Launched in 2020 to support staff with COVID-related questions, BC Cancer's digital agent – affectionately named Helix – leverages digital technology to better serve patients and their families. Through a pilot project in 2022, the agent provided an opportunity for patients in BC Cancer – Victoria looking for information on the website to chat with a nurse, who could answer questions related to their cancer care.

Last month the digital agent was the focus of an international competition hosted by Simon Fraser University. 18 teams from across Europe, Asia, and North America assessed the current model to determine the future vision and approach for the digital agent as the project moves into its next phase.

 "As project sponsor, BC Cancer was able to harness the minds of local and international business students and industry leaders to inform the expansion and sustainment plans for the digital agent," said Justine Sanders, project manager at BC Cancer at the time of the competition. "Expansion of digital tools – like the digital agent – can improve access and quality of care, allowing patients to become more empowered and engaged, regardless of geographical location."

The agent was selected as the focus of the 2023 CaseIT Management Information Systems (MIS) by Dr. Simon Ford, academic director at Simon Fraser University (SFU). He chose the agent for its potential to generate insights in real-time and the conversational form of the AI. As conversational AI technology begins to shift how patients interact with health care organizations, he thought it would be valuable exercise for competitors. Dr. Ford and Justine collaborated to write the business case with fellow BC Cancer project manager Tanis Wong and SFU Beedie research assistant Mina Labini.

72 participants representing 18 teams participated in the six day undergraduate business case competition. The students presented their recommendations on three primary areas of focus:

  • What decision should be made regarding the technology of the digital agent?
  • Where should the digital agent be rolled out next?
  • Should BC Cancer use a provincial or regional model for the digital agent moving forward?

Recommendations from the teams included the importance of addressing the demographics of individuals using the digital agent, facilitation of knowledge transfer from digital agent to nurse, and to increase patient trust with the technology and its platform.

The BC Cancer case was the first of two rounds in the competition, with 40 industry judges viewing the presentations throughout the week. The winners were announced at an awards banquet in front of an audience of over 200 people. The winners were:

  1. Smith School of Business, Queen's University (Canada)
  2. Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (Netherlands)
  3. Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota (USA)

Winners: Smith School of Business, Queen’s University 

"It was an absolute pleasure to collaborate with BC Cancer to create the connected digital agent case for CaseIT 2023, and provide competitors with the challenge of providing recommendations on the future rollout of the connected digital agent service across B.C.," said Dr. Ford.

Vanessa Chau, CaseIT chair, had high praise for the collaboration with BC Cancer, "As a student-driven organization supported by the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, it is with immense gratitude that we have partnered with BC Cancer as the CaseIT 2023 five-hour case sponsor! Thank you to the BC Cancer team for empowering the growth and innovative capabilities of the next generation of business and technology leaders!"

For more details about the digital agent expansion project, please email

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