Make good use of digital health data

This text is part of the special Research section

Health data, which comes from various sources, both medical and administrative, is a wealth of information. And if these data are digitized, their exploration becomes possible, which makes them an interesting research tool. The Université de Sherbrooke, together with its partner the CIUSSS-CHUS de l’Estrie, has just taken another step in this direction by launching the Pôle universitaire de santé numérique de l’Estrie. But why the University of Sherbrooke?

“It’s because we have a long tradition in digital health that dates back to the early 1980s, when we began to establish expertise in the field, underlines Jean-Pierre Perreault, vice-rector for research and to graduate studies. In addition, in the early 1990s, we experienced a first merger of our hospitals in Estrie, and this merger was an opportunity to set up an electronic patient file. This practice was maintained when the CIUSSS was created, for all its services. The Cluster is therefore the culmination of 40 years of expertise in digital health. »

Another reason that makes the creation of the University Center for Digital Health possible: the territory. “All citizens of Estrie receive all of the health services from the CIUSSS-CHUS de l’Estrie, continues the vice-rector, and the Faculty of Medicine as well as the health research centers have a storefront at the University of Sherbrooke. »

Share without centralizing

Although the data collected is completely anonymized, there will not be a central database at the Pôle universitaire de santé numérique de l’Estrie, where all the data would be stored on servers. The reason is legal.

“The law obliges establishments that compile health data, therefore the CIUSSS de l’Estrie and the University of Sherbrooke, to remain the owners of their data, which prohibits the creation of a central bank”, specifies Jean-Pierre Perréault.

Decision makers have therefore favored the creation of an interface bringing together professors, researchers and health practitioners as well as data owners. The digital health university center will provide all stakeholders with expertise in computer science, statistics and artificial intelligence, expertise that will come from the staff of the two partners. “For example, says the vice-rector, a health researcher will first address the experts of the Pole, and it is with them that the research tools will be developed, and then the desired data will be made available. layout of the research project. »

The Pole is the culmination of 40 years of expertise in digital health

And private enterprise? “At the moment, it’s not a priority,” he said. In the future, private companies may be able to participate, but only if they are ready to fully cooperate with us. On the other hand, private companies resulting directly from university research carried out at the University of Sherbrooke could join us more quickly. »

Improve health practice

The avowed goal of the digital health university center is to improve the various health practices by using this tool that is health data. From an administrative point of view, it is easy to imagine health managers using this digital data to determine best practices and then implement them.

“But digital health data can also be used to improve the practice of medicine,” says Jean-Pierre Perreault. For example, an oncologist who has to treat a patient for a given cancer could know, thanks to digital data, which therapeutic methods were used and the results obtained in the treatment of this type of cancer, even before deciding which therapeutic method to use. wants to employ. »

And Jean-Pierre Perreault to recall the importance of the training component. “Quebec is cautious about the use of health data. The Pole is an opportunity to create a favorable environment that will allow all health students to familiarize themselves with this new tool. »

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Make good use of digital health data

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