The consortium is already streamliningresearch in Alberta’s health system. Forexample, it has created a single process thathelps researchers across the province plan theirstudies. “We set out last year with 15 projectsin mind. By this spring, we will probably haveimplemented close to 10, with more comingup,” says Mah-Fraser. “And new projects areemerging as well.
“Going forward, we would like to focuson creating a culture for clinical researchin Alberta.”
Health Research Ethics
Before any health research project starts,it must go through an ethics review—aprocess that makes sure those taking part areproperly protected and informed about whatwill happen to them in the study and howfindings will be used.
Ethics reviews are absolutely essential, butcan be a confusing and time-consuming hurdlefor researchers. The Alberta Health ResearchEthics Harmonization (HREH) initiative aimsto make the process quicker and more efficient.
Until now, a study with participants living in
several different areas of Alberta would need
an ethics review in each area. The initiative
aims to change that, says Linda Barrett-
Smith, AIHS’s director of Ethics & Innovation
Platforms. “We’re trying to align, reduce and
streamline the number of health research
ethics boards that must approve a study before
Barrett-Smith says the initiative, launched
in 2010, has already made progress. “We have
been successful in reducing the number of
boards from six to three,” she says. “More
importantly, we are now reaching a legal
agreement amongst the three that are left,
that there will only need to be one ethics
If the initiative succeeds, researchers will be
able to get their studies up and running much
more quickly and easily and still maintain the
required ethics standards.
By making Alberta a better place to do healthresearch, Barrett-Smith and her team hopeto encourage more research and attract moreinvestment to the province.
Strategy for Patient-
Patients will soon play a much moreactive role in health research, thanks toa new Canadian Institutes of HealthResearch (CIHR) initiative.
Called SPOR (Strategy for Patient-OrientedResearch) the national program supportsresearch that is often shaped directly bypatients themselves. In short, as the termsuggests, “patient-oriented research” putspatients first.
In November 2013, Alberta became the firstplace in Canada to launch a SPOR Supportfor People and Patient-Oriented Research andTrials (SUPPORT) Unit. Over the next fiveyears, the CIHR and AIHS will invest about$48 million in Alberta to promote and supportpatient-oriented research.
Instead of being divided up amongindividual research projects, the money willgo into building a framework to encourage andsupport patient-oriented research. The Albertateam has identified seven different “platforms,”each focusing on different aspects of research.
“Our unit wants to build all the necessary
support to make Alberta a centre for patient-
oriented research and care,” says Tim Murphy,
executive director of Alberta’s SPOR SUPPORT
Unit. “That means putting the patient first
so that the knowledge gained from research
is relevant, applicable and can change
By involving patients, Murphy says,
the quality of research and the quality of
care can be improved. “Patients need to
have their voices heard when we are
Involving patients in
research can improve the quality
of research and care
Although the project is still in its earlieststages, Murphy hopes the momentum willcontinue well beyond five years. “We want thisto become a new way of both doing researchand providing care in the province.”