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BIG DATA, BIG IMPACT

Author: 
Jennifer Rae
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Photo by Jennifer Robers/jenniferroberts.ca

Photo by Jennifer Robers/jenniferroberts.ca

Something big is happening at North York General Hospital, thanks to the support of our community, and donors like you.

We are on the cusp of launching a Joint Data Warehouse (JDW) – a central repository of patient data and information, to be utilized for research that will improve and enhance patient care.

Currently, patients’ health care data is housed in multiple, unconnected settings. For instance, the majority of information from a hospital visit stays in the hospital’s database, while family physicians keep records in their offices. Links between electronic medical records are limited.

This has been the standard in patient care. But, at North York General, we are never satisfied with the status quo. We look for different ways of doing things, in order to truly Go Beyond Care for our patients and their families.  Our researchers knew that if patient data was linked, there would be endless potential to discern trends that could transform patient care.

We started by looking at the top 5% of health care users in Ontario – patients with complex (and often multiple) health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. These patients are at the highest risk for repeat hospital visits. In fact, over one third of patients in this group are readmitted to the hospital within 90 days of their original visit. Knowing this led our researchers to ask: how can we better meet the needs of these high-risk patients and improve their outcomes?

The answer can be found using large volumes of data. After all, data helps us create meaning. We use data to identify trends and move beyond simply counting things, to truly understanding them. More data allows us to see things differently – with a newer, better lens. It is an incredibly important tool and, through North York General’s development of the JDW, we are emerging as a leading force in the field of research and innovation.

 Dr. Michelle Greiver, a family physician in the North York Family Health Team (a group of over 70 family physicians operating 1t 17 sites to provide primary care services to approximately 69,0000 patients in North York), has recently joined North York General as one of our first research scientists and is a driving force behind the JDW. Passionate about evidence-based medicine and the impact of primary care research in preventive health care, Dr. Greiver has submitted the first proposal to use JDW generated data to explore methods of improving care and outcomes for patients with high-risk heart or lung conditions.

 “The implications of utilizing big data are incredible,” says Dr. Greiver. “As a physician, I understand what is happening to my own patients living with high-risk conditions. The JDW will give us a better understanding of how care is being delivered to patients across systems, so that we can inform and drive positive change and deliver the very best in patient- and family-centred care.”

 The development of North York General’s Joint Data Warehouse was fully funded by donor support, led by a $320,000 donation from Ernst & Young’s 2015 golf tournament. “EY’s support was instrumental in building the Joint Data Warehouse,” says Terry Pursell, President & CEO, North York General Foundation. “Their gift, along with our community’s support of patient-centred, practice-based research at our hospital is propelling North York General forward as a leader in the population research field.”

This is an exciting time for research at North York General, and innovations such as the data warehouse are attracting some of the brightest minds in health sciences to our hospital. Dr. Monika Kastner, who was recently appointed as North York General’s Research Chair in Knowledge Translation and Implementation (the science of improving the adoption of knowledge), was drawn to North York General in part because of the opportunities that this large volume of data will create. She also notes an enthusiastic buzz and a ‘roll up your sleeves’ attitude that permeates the halls of North York General. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to make a difference here,” she says. “The fact that both the hospital and community are so supportive is inspiring.”

This is a transformative time for North York General’s researchers to make an impact on patient care. For more information on how you can support this initiative, please contact Joanne Murray-Ormandy, Associate Director, Philanthropy at 416-756-6915 or Joanne.Murray-Ormandy@nygh.on.ca