Digital health competition to fund research into better care delivery

Digital health competition to fund research into better care delivery

· The Pulse

Five proposals from researchers at the University of Alberta are among the nine selected to move on to the final phase of a competition for funding in the realm of digital health.

As part of the next iteration of the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Health System (PRIHS), the researchers will be giving "den presentations" during the week of Nov. 14, which is Digital Health Week.

A joint venture from Alberta Innovates and Alberta Health Services, PRIHS is designed to align the work of researchers with the needs of the health system. The two entities are investing up to $7 million in the PRIHS Digital Health competition, and projects are expected to begin in early 2023 if they are approved by the selection committee following their presentations next week.

"It's exciting that the program is exploring the development of these innovative care models and leveraging digital health technologies to potentially achieve these care models," said Antonio Bruni, director of health system transformation at Alberta Innovates.

One of the projects is from Alim Hirji, an associate professor in pulmonary medicine at the University of Alberta. His project explores the use of telemonitoring to reduce adverse events for hospitalized patients.

Hirji's previous research reviewed a cohort of patients with lung disease who were transferred to intensive care or died between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 19, 2021. The study found that more than a quarter of the patients died or ended up in the ICU due to potentially preventable events, such as the inadvertent disconnection of their oxygen. "The implementation of telemonitoring in high-risk patients may reduce adverse outcomes and should be further investigated," Hirji and fellow researcher Jacqueline Tay concluded.

The other University of Alberta researchers participating in the competition are exploring a wide range of projects:

  • Darren Lau is looking into an integrated digital health approach to diabetes in First Nations;
  • Justin Chen seeks to optimize the management of blood infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus, an antibiotic-resistant microbe;
  • Karen Wong is working on a patient dashboard to improve the management of inflammatory bowel disease;
  • Maria Castro-Codesal is exploring improvements to the care pathway for children with medical complexity who may need a tracheostomy.

The rest of the projects are from University of Calgary researchers for projects related to sexual health, digital records, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. There is no maximum budget set for each proposal, but the projects must be completed within three years to qualify for the funding. Projects selected for this round of funding will be announced in the first week of January.

Image: The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Health System (PRIHS) seeks to align research with the needs of the health system. (Alberta Innovates)