Merging hospital and community data to advance research

North York General Hospital (NYGH) and over 80 community family doctors from the North York Family Health Team have been working on an ambitious project to pool their patient health data for research that will improve care for complex, high risk patients. The project known as the Health Databank Collaborative – Powered by North York General Hospital, is creating a single virtual hub to study medical care and outcomes for patients to help solve some of health care's biggest challenges.

In Ontario, the most complex patients (top 5% of health care users) account for over two-thirds of health care costs. Complex patients often have chronic diseases and comorbidities, which require different health care providers across multiple settings. Care transitions are extremely common and costly: over one-third of patients discharged from internal medicine units are readmitted to the hospital within 90 days, costing over $700 million per year.

Dr. Michelle Greiver
Dr. Michelle Greiver, Family Physician and Research Scientist, North York General Hospital

The Health Databank Collaborative will enable our researchers to examine how patients with chronic diseases conditions or serious mental illness, for example bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, move through the health system and identify where necessary supports are lacking.

“By focusing in on the ‘why' patients fall through the cracks, whether that is having to be readmitted to a hospital, not following up with their primary care doctor or adhering to the medication requirements, we can identify solutions,” says Dr. Michelle Greiver, Family Physician and Research Scientist.

The project benefits from a robust governance structure that reflects strong hospital leadership and representation from primary care physicians in the community. 

“This unique project is built on the strong ties between NYGH and physicians in the community with a shared goal of breaking down silos in the health system and improving care for patients,” said Dr. Donna McRitchie, Vice President of Medical and Academic Affairs at NYGH.

Dr. Donna McRitchie
Dr. Donna McRitchie, Vice President of Medical and Academic Affairs, North York General Hospital

Using IBM PureData (Netezza) data can be accurately processed at 600 times the rate of most programs, which allows researchers to make large amounts of data more meaningful and manageable to use.

With this project NYGH is striving to be ahead of the curve by making an investment in the future. “'Big Data' has enormous potential to improve health care and this potential is still largely untapped,” says Dr. Greiver. “Analyzing and understanding the information contained in the Heath Data Collaborative has the potential to transform and enhance the way patients are treated.”

Share this article