Canada’s Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor at UBC on April 23, 2019 to announce the launch of the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Canadian Data Platform that will build a single data access portal for cross provincial Canadian research. (Ginette Petitpas Taylor/Twitter)

Pan-Canada health database to launch with federal funding

Federal government and several partners are contributing $81 million over seven years

Dr. Kim McGrail says she and her team ran into a familiar challenge when they were trying to compare different approaches to family health-care reform across the country.

They wanted to look at Quebec and British Columbia, which share the same goal of ensuring every resident has a family doctor but are tackling it through different care models.

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Gathering the data was going to be difficult, said McGrail, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

“The question is, is there a difference in outcomes with these two different approaches? It’s really, really complicated,” she said.

“It’s two different data requests, different timelines, different roles. And then you get the data and the data themselves are really, fundamentally different because you’re talking about primary care data that is negotiated in provinces between medical associations and governments.

So there’s nothing that looks similar about this data across the country.”

McGrail is the scientific lead for a new health research database that aims to eliminate some of those challenges. The Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research Canadian Data Platform is expected to launch in the next two or three months.

She said it will provide a single portal through which researchers can request information from various sources from across the country and share analytical tools.

“What we’re doing is trying to build those resources up front so when a researcher comes along and has that sort of question, it’s a much, much faster journey to get that answer,” she said.

McGrail likened the current research process to an undulating wave graph. A researcher will start at the bottom of the wave and work their way to the top then move on to something else. Another researcher who picks up the same topic has to start at the bottom of the wave again.

The database aims to eliminate those waves, having the second researcher pick up at the peak of where the last person left off.

“We trying to push people up so they can start closer to the top,” she said.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor was at University of B.C. Tuesday to announce the federal government and several partners are contributing $81 million over seven years to support the database.

She said the database will help improve responses for health-care priorities that affect all provinces.

“Cancer, the opioid crisis and heart disease don’t stop at Kicking Horse Pass, the Ottawa River or the Tantramar Marshes,” she said.

Other funding partners include the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Ontario Ministry of Health, Population Data BC, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information and the University of B.C.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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