Health and Community Leaders Talk: David Hill

By David Hill, Scientific Director, Lawson Health Research Institute and Integrated Vice President of Research for London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Dr David Hill Lawson Health Research Institute

What does health research mean to you?

Health research means delivering the best health care by pushing the boundaries of science. It’s about understanding the basis of wellness and the dysfunctions of the body and mind that result in disease. At Lawson, our research expands the full continuum of life and mirrors the clinical areas at London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London. We make it our mission to test and deliver health care innovations for the benefit of patients in our community, in Ontario and beyond.

Health research also drives the future of health care—looking not just at where we are now but where we could be in ten or fifteen years. Ontario’s research hospitals bridge the gap between today’s discoveries and the next generation of health service and delivery. Where we could be won’t happen by chance. It will be the result of hospital-based research.

Read more: Behind the scenes at Lawson

How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?

Healthier: Health research makes our patients healthier as the discovery of new treatments leads to improved health outcomes and a higher quality of life.  At Lawson, we take a “bedside to bench to bedside” approach. Our researchers focus their efforts on figuring out the clinical problem, and then take that back to the lab to develop new knowledge that can be translated directly to better patient care. At Lawson we built our strategic plan around precisely identified clinical problems and their resolution through inter-disciplinary research.

Wealthier: Health research is good for the economy as our researchers work to discover new ways to drive efficiency and reduce costs; find new methods of service delivery; improve procedures,; and create entirely new ones, like specialized molecular imaging techniques. We’re also commercializing our innovations through WORLDiscoveries®. Born out of a partnership between Lawson, Robarts Research Institute and Western University, WORLDiscoveries® is the business development arm of London’s extensive research network and the bridge between local invention and global industry.

Smarter: Health Research makes our communities smarter by attracting the best and brightest health care professionals. We’re seeing this at Lawson as we continue to grow our reputation as a leader in the life sciences sector, with over 1,500 principal investigators, research support staff, students and trainees. This growth feeds on itself, helping us to attract top talent to our city, like Dr. Chris McIntyre, a nephrology researcher who came to Lawson from the UK in 2014.

At Lawson, one thing we believe in strongly is that investment in health research is good for all of us – in London, across Ontario, and in Canada. In today’s tough funding landscape, we must ensure that health research remains a priority for health system leaders, and leaders in the broader community.

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

Health and Community Leaders Talk: Karen Michell

By Karen Michell, outgoing Executive Director of the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter: My Reflections on the Value of CAHO Hospitals

For the past eight years as CAHO’s Executive Director, I’ve had the unique privilege of supporting the shared vision of Ontario’s research hospitals. And every day, I continue to be inspired by the significant value and leadership that they bring to our province by working together as a community.

During my first 30 days at CAHO, Dr. Bob Bell, now Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, told me that research is about hope. Over my years here, patients like Tina Ceroni, Gail Bellissimo, and Rick King have made that statement real for me by sharing their own stories of how research has given them hope, and frankly, changed their lives. It has been a true highlight of my time at CAHO to meet and learn from them and other patients, caregivers and families, whose stories have made an indelible mark on my understanding of the value of health research: that it is a necessity, not a luxury.

Read more Patients + Research stories

I’ve often said that my favourite part of this job is to meet the health researchers and scientists who transform the lives of our patients. From the first week on the job to the last, I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to spend time in our member hospitals, often taking tours of the world-class research institutes that they run. I never fail to come away with a sense of awe about the curiosity of the scientists, their perseverance, their keen observance of the micro and the macro, their willingness to allow the unexpected to surprise them, and take them on joyful journeys of discovery. I appreciate the policy-makers and funders who support a research environment that nurtures these scientists and provides a rich training ground for the next generation.

Finally, I have been grateful to the CAHO CEOs for being willing to take risks together. We often talk about the understandably risk-averse nature of health care. And yet I’ve found that the CAHO community is motivated to try new things in order to improve the health care system in Ontario and to make the most and best out of the investments that Ontarians have made in us and our hospitals. I saw this with the creation of the Adopting Research to Improve Care (ARTIC) Program to find ways to get the best research evidence to improve care for patients faster, and through CAHO’s willingness to work together as an Innovation Broker to clear the path into market for health care innovators.  I’m looking forward to watching how CAHO’s Innovation Broker role helps to foster a more innovative culture in health care, and encourage innovators to consider Ontario as a destination of choice.

Sharing these reflections helps me to realize anew that research hospitals truly do make Ontario healthier, wealthier and smarter. They do this, not just as part of a smart business plan, but because it is part of their mission and mandate – it is who they are. I’m honoured to have served as the Executive Director of CAHO, and to have had a front-row seat to the excellence and opportunity created for Ontarians by Ontario’s research hospitals.

As I move on from my role at CAHO, I am thrilled to continue supporting this community – and its vision of a Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Ontario – in my new role as Vice President, Strategy at the Sinai Health System.

 

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

Health and Community Leaders Talk: Sheila MacDonald

By Sheila MacDonald, Clinical Manager of the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC) and Provincial Coordinator of the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care and Treatment Centres (SADVTC)

How does research inform the work you do across Ontario and at the Women’s College Hospital (WCH) Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC)?

In my role as provincial coordinator, I collaborate with the 35 hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres across the province. We partnered with the Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) many years ago because we wanted to make sure that the work we were doing was evidence-based.

Dr. Janice Du Mont, a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute has provided the leadership in our research initiatives, which has ensured data quality and integrity. In 2003, we carried out a HIV Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) project because patients had started to ask about access to HIV PEP medications after an assault. A research team led by Dr. Mona Loutfy, an HIV expert here at WCH, and Dr. Du Mont, developed, implemented and evaluated an HIV PEP program of care in collaboration with 24 SADVTC programs in Ontario. That resulted in the development of a program of care for HIV PEP with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for the medication.

As a Network, we also worked with Dr. Du Mont to carry out a client evaluation study from 2009 to 2011 to evaluate our services and identify any gaps in our care. Although the clients that do see us express a high degree of satisfaction with services, we wanted to identify any improvements that could be made to services.

Currently, the Network and Dr. Du Mont have several initiatives underway to strengthen the training/education for SADVTC clinicians across the province. One initiative is the first step toward enhancing training for service provision for victims/survivors who identify as transgender. We have an Advisory Committee of experts that is providing leadership and guidance on this project. A second initiative is a collaborative project led by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres to strengthen service delivery for Indigenous persons.

On a population level, why is it important for us to be studying sexual assault and domestic violence?

Violence against women occurs at alarming rates with significant negative impacts on the victims/survivors, their families and the community. We need a better understanding of the impact of violence, and the supports needed to aid in recovery. We also need to work on prevention strategies to reduce violence from happening in the first place. Finally, we need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current system in place that respond to issues of violence including criminal justice system processes, and work collaboratively to improve these systems.

What research are you collaborating on now that could help address these issues?

The ongoing development of evidence-based training for health professionals is really important. Robin Mason, PhD, a scientist at WCRI, and Dr. Du Mont and myself have collaborated on educational initiatives to strengthen clinical expertise by developing curricula at DVEducation.ca. One of the curricula we are working on right now is focused on service provider understanding of the less well-understood responses to sexual assault; for example, why a victim/survivor would contact the perpetrator subsequent to a sexual assault.  In addition to gaining an understanding of such issues, the curriculum will aid service providers in providing appropriate responses to women who have been sexually assaulted.

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

 

Health and Community Leaders Talk: Debbi M Nicholson

By Debbi M Nicholson, President and CEO, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce

Debbi Nicholson CEO Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce

What does health research mean to you?

When I think of health research, I think of all the noteworthy initiatives being undertaken by organizations like the Health Sciences North Research Institute (HSNRI) in the areas of cancer care, heathy ageing, infectious diseases, and northern and indigenous health.  HSNRI has demonstrated that health research is not just about generating knowledge, it is about using research outcomes for action – to guide policy and program development and to find sustainable solutions to the most pressing health challenges faced by its stakeholders.

Health research has led to innovations like new therapies that reduce the need for in-hospital care, new devices that track patient diagnostics in order to prevent catastrophic health events, and more effective drugs that improve our quality of life.  Health research in mining has led to safer workplaces. These are just a few examples of how health research has transformed the quality of our health care system.

As a business association, we believe that to realize the full potential of the health sector, we need to support health research through its various stages, right up to commercialization and adoption.  Collaboration with industry and other partners, embracing leading technologies, and ensuring that research is put in the hands of policy makers, is essential to guarantying health research translates into effective health care action.  The commercialization of research is critical.

How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?

Let’s start with healthier: leading-edge research has contributed to pioneering practices in advancing patient care as well as treating illness.  Think about how the discovery of insulin treatment for diabetes and the electric wheelchair – two Canadian discoveries resulting from revolutionary health research – have impacted patient care.  Health research also plays a vital role in prevention and continuous health care quality improvement.

In terms of wealthier and smarter: the figures often reported state that every $1 spent on hospital research generates an estimated $3 in economic output.  When one looks at the impact of heath research here in Sudbury, you can see that job creation, the attraction of top talent from around the world, economic diversification, and innovative partnerships between research institutions, academia and industry, are some of the positive outcomes. All these initiatives will contribute to a wealthier Sudbury and Ontario.  Health research has enhanced our community’s knowledge economy allowing us to compete on an international scale.

Health spending in Ontario consumes nearly half of the provincial budget.  Our health care system is facing a series of challenges including a population that is aging and increasingly suffering from chronic illnesses.  Health research can play an important role in leading partnerships with academia and industry to innovate and find solutions to increase efficiencies and enhance the sustainability of our health care system into the future.   The Sudbury chamber has partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on a year-long health transformation initiative that looks at the challenges facing the health care system and has made recommendations for health care reform.  We have released a series of reports focused on issues such as innovation in health care, supporting the health sciences sectors, and models for collaboration.  These reports can be found at http://www.occ.ca/advocacy/health-transformation-initiative/.

Feel free to reach out to us at the chamber (policy@sudburychamber.ca) or tweet us @SudburyCofC to share your thoughts on how you think we as a business association can better support health research and the sustainability of the health care sector.

All the best,

Debbi

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

 

Health & Community Leaders Talk: Paul Kurdyak

By Dr. Paul Kurdyak, Director, Health Outcomes for the Medical Psychiatry Alliance (MPA); Medical Director, Performance Improvement at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

What does health research mean to you?

Health research is a very broad topic, but to me, it means research aimed at finding ways to improve the health and well-being of individuals suffering from medical conditions, including mental illnesses and addictions. The burden of mental illness is high. Patients who are dealing with a physical health issue on top of their mental illness experience greater impact on their ability to function and on their quality of life. In Ontario, we spend billions of dollars on individuals living with combined mental and physical illness, but are not seeing great quality of care or outcomes. This is the worst case scenario – spending a lot of money to achieve poor health outcomes.

We know what needs to be done based on existing evidence, but we fall short on delivering evidence-based care. For example, we know that getting adequate and timely care for young Ontarians being diagnosed for the first time with schizophrenia is critical to achieve good outcomes. Our research shows that many of these young Ontarians are not receiving adequate physician follow-up. Patients with schizophrenia have double the amount of health care costs compared to those who don’t have this condition – and the costs are related to their physical health care in addition to their mental health. Despite these high health care costs, these patients have a shorter life expectancy – by up to 20 years — compared to individuals who don’t have a severe mental illness. This is unacceptable.

The Medical Psychiatry Alliance (MPA) was established in January 2014 with a six-year mandate, to kick start a transformation in Ontario that will help increase access to quality, integrated mental and physical health care. The MPA is the first of its kind in Canada with this urgent mandate. It is a unique collaboration between The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Trillium Health Partners and the University of Toronto. Currently, the MPA is systematically generating evidence for the best models of integrated care in which to treat Ontarians, which we hope will reduce the burden of cost for patients and for the health system overall.

 

How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?

The best health care policy is based on sound evidence. The MPA is leading the analysis of the impact of integrated care on patient outcomes, with an emphasis on rigorous research methods to determine system-level impact using data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. I am the Director of Health Outcomes for this arm of research under the MPA’s mandate.

Recently, our research discovered that treating psychotic illnesses cost the province of Ontario just under $2.1 billion in 2012, which was about four per cent of the total provincial health budget. We already knew costs for treating psychotic illnesses were high, but what our research now shows is how early patients start incurring long-term care and medical care costs. Patients with psychotic illnesses as young as 46 are in long-term care facilities and are generating high medical care costs, which is about 20 years earlier than the general population. The needs of patients with chronic psychotic illnesses change over time, and those needs become more complex as people age.

The MPA’s new models of clinical care, currently rolling out as pilot initiatives at CAMH, SickKids and Trillium Health Partners, hope to better serve the needs of these patients. These new models of care are backed by innovative new education programs spearheaded by U of T, to train learners and healthcare providers and equip them with the training and tools they need to better care for patients with complex needs.

If we are successful in increasing access to integrated health services for those with severe mental illness, we will be helping Ontarians live longer and healthier lives, with improved quality of life. Moreover, we have demonstrated that we are not getting very good outcomes despite very high costs. We hope to show that providing integrated, high quality health care for individuals with mental illnesses and addictions will improve health outcomes, quality of life, and reduce costs.

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

Health & Community Leaders Talk: Dr. Tom Mikkelsen

How Brain-CODE Contributes to a Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Ontario
By Dr. Tom Mikkelsen, President and Scientific Director, Ontario Brain Institute

Dr. Tom Mikkelsen OBI

At OBI, it’s our aim to maximize Ontario’s existing research assets and establish our province as a world leader in neuroscience. To help realize this goal, we developed five Integrated Discovery Programs that gather together researchers and clinical sites across the province dealing with specific diseases: epilepsy, cerebral palsy, neurodegenerative disorders, depression, and neurodevelopmental disorders. By connecting some of the best and brightest minds across the province, these programs allow us to address disorders that represent a significant burden to Ontarians, their families and Ontario’s society and economy.

The creation of these programs also resulted in an unprecedented opportunity for Ontario’s neuroscience community—an opportunity to share and maximize the value of neuroscience data in a way that was never-before-possible.

We developed Brain-CODE, an innovative data sharing platform that unites researchers by pooling their expertise and resources to achieve greater impact than they could have achieved in isolation. Brain-CODE manages the collection, sharing, processing and analytics of multidimensional data collected from patients with a variety of brain disorders. By standardizing the data, Brain-CODE maximizes the value of each individual’s participation in research. With the right security and privacy protocols, one person’s data can contribute to insights in an infinite number of studies.

This standardization also enables unprecedented data sharing so that, for example, Alzheimer’s researchers doing clinical studies can share their data with researchers focused on Parkinson’s Disease at a different site on the other side of the province. Here’s an illustration of how Brain-CODE can fuel collaboration:

At Providence Care in Kingston, Dr. Dallas Seitz is conducting a study on Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment as part of OBI’s Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative (ONDRI). Participants of the study undergo a variety of physical and cognitive evaluations and the data is processed, analyzed and stored through Brain-CODE. As soon as Dr. Seitz’s uploads his data, it’s made available to other researchers with access to Brain-CODE.  Down in London at the Lawson Health Research Institute, Dr. Mandar Jog is able to review Dr. Seitz’s data to inform his own research on Parkinson’s disease, potentially giving him new clues, insights or approaches on how to advance his work.

By bringing data together on one easily accessible plain, Brain-CODE shrinks the distance between scientists and provides fertile ground to advance research and accelerate discovery.

Brain-CODE enhances OBI’s initiatives to transform Ontario’s neuroscience research environment, improve brain health, and support Ontario’s economy – in essence, to contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario. The integration of data across disorders will lead to the generation of new hypotheses and open the door to discovering new treatments for patients. In addition, Brain-CODE could produce significant long-term gains by attracting clinical trials, reducing replicated research, and improving patient care. And by encouraging data sharing, Brain-CODE also helps to cultivate a culture of scientific collaboration and discovery in Ontario, helping us to attract the brightest neuroscientists from around the world. In doing all this, it’s our hope that Brain-CODE will help amplify the potential for discovery and make Ontario a world-leader in neuroscience.

Learn more about the Ontario Brain Institute and Brain-CODE at www.braininstitute.ca 

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

 

Health & Community Leaders Talk: Jim Woodgett

By Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, part of Sinai Health System

Jim Woodgett

What does health research mean to you?

Health research is a spectrum, from making new and amazing discoveries through to identifying the best ways to implement best practices in delivery of care. We tend to see the delivery side of the pipe and forget that we have so much more to learn – about our biology, our susceptibilities, what most of our genes do (we are largely still in the dark), how diseases are caused, what might prevent them….  So many questions! Luckily for me in my job, I do get to see the whole pipeline – from new understandings of how worms move (which helps us understand diseases like Parkinson’s), to new therapeutics that we’ve helped develop and may be tested on our patients through to identifying new risk factors and ways to avoid exposures. There is a lot going on but there is always so much more to do. Our scientific ignorance is the biggest gap in achieving better quality of life

How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?

The question is really, why Ontario? Why can’t we just let some other country develop better ways to provide care and we can then adopt them? Well, we could and we’d always be a few years behind. We’d never have control (of price, of coverage, of problems specific to Ontario). We’d yearn for our kids to visit as they moved to other parts of the world to make a difference. We’d fondly remember the world-class care we used to receive because the best physicians wanted to train here and improve the outcomes of their patients, here. We’d say goodbye to the burgeoning companies that pop up and grow in Ontario because we have a strong health research sector. We’d also lose our desire to make not only our own lives better, but also the lives of those so much less fortunate than Ontarians. That’s why.

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

Health & Community Leaders Talk: Peter Pisters

Safer, Smarter Care for a Healthier Ontario

Peter Pisters, President and CEO of University Health Network, shares the value of research evidence in improving patient safety, generating smarter care and a healthier Ontario.

 Peter Pisters, CEO of University Health Network

Almost every person who works in health care has seen or heard about a terrifying event where a patient was hurt or was almost hurt because something went wrong.  Nobody who works in health care wants errors to happen.  Trust has been placed in us and we do everything we can to live up to that trust.

Notwithstanding the noble intentions of health care workers, preventable harm does happen and these events occur far more often than industry insiders or the general public understand.   Indeed, by our estimates – and there isn’t reliable data in Canada so we must extrapolate from U.S. data – more than 30,000 Canadians die each year as a result of preventable harm in health care settings.

The causes are many and familiar – wrong medication or medication given in the wrong dose, an infection acquired in the hospital because proper protocols for handwashing or sterilization of equipment are not followed, complications which arise from a fall that could have been prevented, foreign objects accidentally being left inside patients during surgery.  The list of types of preventable harm is a very long one and, in complex, dynamic environments that have high reliance on technology and where patients move from one setting to another being handed off to different care teams, the opportunities for errors grow.

I’m proud to be the leader of Canada’s most research-intensive hospital, where we apply research findings into improving clinical care and outcomes.  I see wonderful care and a commitment from everyone to heal and help our patients.  I also see the enormous possibilities of using our clinical teams and researchers to help us understand how errors occur and how we can make our hospital a much safer place to receive care.  Our efforts, in partnership with the Hospital for Sick Children, are going forward under a shared program that we call Caring Safely. Many other organizations including Sinai Health System, Women’s College Hospital, Health Quality Ontario, the Canadian Medical Protective Association, the Ontario Hospital Association and others have all expressed great interest in our efforts to drive preventable harm to zero. Through smarter, safer care, University Health Network, along with its partners, will help to build a healthier Ontario.

For critical insights on improving safety, we are looking to other industries that have made extraordinary safety improvements over the past 30 years.  These industries include aviation, nuclear power, and chemical manufacturing — industries that have a relative complexity of the work environment similar to healthcare and where reliability and resilience have been hard wired into the workforce. Collectively, these industries have adopted practices known as high reliability. In high reliability industries safety is a core value and employees are supported and trained to spot problems before they happen and take immediate action. The lessons learned from success in other industries are applicable to healthcare.

I believe that safety is an implicit expectation that Ontarians have of our hospitals. For those who would like to read more about High Reliability Organizations I recommend two books – Why Hospitals Should Fly by J.D. Nance and Managing the Unexpected by Karl Weick and Karen Sutcliffe of the University of Michigan. The first is written in novel form and imagines what it would be like to work in a hospital that has adopted the principles of reliability and resilience.  The second book is a seminal academic work that outlines the principles that define high reliability organizations.

At UHN, we started this journey with an organization-wide survey from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that has given us rich data about attitudes to safety on our units, in our clinics and throughout the organization.  The response was overwhelming with two of our sites achieving 100% participation, and a third at 98%.  This extraordinary response to administrative efforts to measure our safety culture clearly demonstrates the deep interest that the UHN community has in our safety transformation and our shared commitment to safety for each other and for the patients we serve.  One major benefit of the AHRQ safety survey is that it is used throughout North America, enabling us to benchmark ourselves with over 700 hospitals.

You can learn more about the work Canada is doing to address patient safety here.

Toronto Rehabilitation Institute has been using the AHRQ safety culture survey for many years and has used their data to identify issues that can then be worked on by the manager and the team on the unit.  They have seen changes to their safety culture year over year and all of UHN will learn from their experience with the survey and with the ways they have worked with their staff to make Toronto Rehab a safer organization.

The Institute of Medicine once noted that “errors… are costly in terms of loss of trust in the health care system by patients and diminished satisfaction by both patients and health professionals”. By decreasing incidents of preventable harm and increasing a focus on patient safety we can create a healthier and smarter environment for everyone that comes through our doors.

UHN is a proud member of CAHO, which supports the health research enterprise that makes Ontario Healthier, Wealthier and Smarter.  We’re determined to also make it safer, and I thank CAHO for allowing me to write about the start of this journey and welcome your thoughts and questions.

 

Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk posts here, and share your own insights about the value of health research on Twitter with our hashtag, #onHWS.

To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

 

Health & Community Leaders Talk: George Weber

By George Weber, President and CEO of The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group

Weber, George_The Royal

What does health research mean to you?

Research is vitally important in the mental health field because of a growing gap between the number of available specialized clinicians and the significant increases in people with treatment-resistant mental illnesses who require care that is both more effective and more efficient.

Mental health receives only about five per cent of medical research dollars, despite the fact mental illness is the No. 1 medical condition in terms of the years lost to disability, economic and social costs confronting Canadians; costing more than heart disease, pulmonary diseases and cancers combined.

Research plays a key role in discovering how to better manage symptoms of those with significant and/or chronic mental illness. For example, I am confident The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre, which features a new PET/fMRI scanner, will help us understand how the brain works and ultimately move toward more accurate diagnoses, new treatment protocols and more personalized treatments to help these individuals improve.

The work being done by researchers and clinicians can only lead to a deeper understanding of the brain, and what happens when brain circuits go awry.

The goal, ultimately, is helping people with mental illness to return to productive and fulfilling lives.

Read Rachel Scott-Mignon’s Patients + Research blog post on The Royal’s new PET/fMRI scanner to learn more.

 

How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?

It is estimated that the direct and indirect cost of mental illness to the Canadian economy is approximately $51 billion. Some put it at $38 billion for Ontario alone. Contributing to that is that in any given week, at least 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems and one in three Canadians will experience a mental health problem during their life.

As one of Canada’s foremost mental health teaching and research hospitals, The Royal combines the delivery of specialized mental health care, advocacy, research and education to improve the lives of people with complex and treatment-resistant mental illness.

Mental health research being done here and in other centres will help improve treatments rates, and will have a profound impact on creating a healthier, wealthier and smarter Ontario.

We have seen progress but there is still a long way to go. While advances have been made in the treatment of mental illness, it is still a matter of trial and error in many cases, with clinicians trying one approach after the other until something works. Research will take us to the next level, allowing for new, personalized treatment to help people manage symptoms sooner.

And, simply put, that means people can lead more productive lives, working and taking an active role in the community, all of which contributes to the prosperity of Ontario.

 

 

Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk posts here, and share your own insights about the value of health research on Twitter with our hashtag, #onHWS.

To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.

 

Health & Community Leaders Talk: Garry Foster

How to spark a discussion about brain research

By Garry Foster, President & CEO, Baycrest Foundation

Garry Foster, President and CEO of Baycrest Foundation

At Baycrest Health Sciences, our focus is brain health and aging. We want people to learn more about what takes place in our labs and how scientific findings are having an impact on the lives of young and old alike, contributing to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario.

The brain is one of the last frontiers of medical science – and we all have a stake in keeping it healthy. Close to 750,000 people in Canada have some form of cognitive impairment. The number is projected to grow in 15 years to 1.4 million as the population ages. In addition to the heartbreak of having someone you love lose their cognitive function, the cost to society is enormous when around-the-clock care and the lost earnings of family caregivers are considered.

To start a very public conversation about the importance of brain health, the Baycrest Foundation and an enthusiastic committee launched The Brain Project presented by Telus. Many generous sponsors are lending their support. After a call for submissions, 100 artists were selected to create brain sculptures that were placed in highly visible locations throughout Toronto where people can stop, admire the artistry and creativity, read the plaques and consider, for a moment or two, what brain health means to them and their loved ones.

In some cases, the artists were themselves motivated to take part because a family member or close friend has had Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or a traumatic brain injury.

The Brain Project is adding beauty and interest to the Toronto streetscape while putting brain health top of mind. Conversations about brain health are taking place as a result – and amongst people for whom the topic may have been previously unconsidered.

The need to make brain health a priority for people at every age is reflected in the research taking place today. Many of our researchers at the Rotman Research Institute – who are worldwide leaders in the study of memory and cognitive neuroscience – conduct cognitive tests and neuroimaging on healthy people as well as people who have experienced brain damage or disease.

Among other things, they are searching for biomarkers that indicate the onset of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and aiming to identify interventions that will keep brains healthier longer. Already, our scientists have learned that bilingualism, music and social engagement can make a difference to brain health – and they’re testing a range of other interventions as well. One thing they watch for is changes in the hippocampus, which plays a key role in memory.

They are also co-leaders of an international project that is creating The Virtual Brain, an integrated computer model of a fully functioning human brain. It simulates how the brain is functioning under normal circumstances, how it changes with aging and how it responds to damage from trauma or disease. In the future, it will be used to test experimental brain therapies on a computer before they are tested on humans.

Baycrest is dedicated to finding solutions that will restore brainpower sooner to people with neurological challenges and change the trajectory on the prevalence of brain disease.

 

Endeavours like The Brain Project that raise funds and spark discussion play a critical role as our researchers seek breakthroughs in prevention, intervention and early diagnosis that will ease the burden on our healthcare system and create a better and longer future for generations to come.

 

 

Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk posts here, and share your own insights about the value of health research on Twitter with our hashtag, #onHWS.  Or follow and learn more about The Brain Project on Twitter: @baycrest @supportbaycrest @TheBrainProj

To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.