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A pair of UHN-led projects – one to better understand the value and impact of integrated care for older adults; the other to evaluate innovations in the delivery of care for chronic pain – are among those receiving $26.6 million in funding over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
The Honourable Mark Holland, the Federal Minister of Health, made the announcement of 13 research projects and a knowledge mobilization hub under CIHR's
Transforming Health with Integrated Care (THINC) initiative at a news conference at Toronto Western Hospital on Friday, Oct. 20.
"We continue to invest in research as part of our commitment to strengthen health care in regions and communities throughout Canada," said Minister Holland, who toured labs at UHN's Krembil Research Institute following the announcement.
"These research teams will address important health challenges we are facing and their work will lead to improved care and better health outcomes for people living with serious health conditions."
Dr. Karen Okrainec, a General Internal Medicine physician at UHN, will work with colleagues at Alberta Health Services to create a "Road Map for Integrated Care Evaluation in Canada" as part of a $1.7 million grant from CIHR and partners.
Dr. Andrea Furlan, a Senior Scientist at UHN's KITE Research Institute, will work with colleagues from Saskatchewan Health Sciences Research for "Testing Health Care Innovations in Integrated Networks for Chronic Pain" as part of a $2.0 million grant from CIHR and partners.
"Integrated models of care are critical to the modernization of Canada's health system," said Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN's President & CEO. "We thank the federal government for the investment in this timely research at UHN.
"As Canada's leading research hospital, we are proud of our pioneering work which aims to wrap the right level of care around our patients by bringing acute, home, community, and primary care together. With this generous investment, we will be able to accelerate development and the evolving models of care that will sustain our health care system."
The research teams who received funding in Friday's announcement will focus on the concept of integrated care by coordinating care and services around people's needs to improve quality care and health outcomes. Each team will include researchers, policymakers, people with lived or living experience and health care providers.
Read a full list of the research projects
"We thank CIHR for its broad support across the full spectrum of health research – from discovery research to implementation science," said Dr. Brad Wouters, EVP, Science & Research at UHN. "The funding announced today supports important team-based approaches to develop evidence-based, integrated solutions to improve the health system for people in Canada, and will strengthen partnerships among researchers, policymakers, patients and communities."
Dr. Okrainec, who is also a scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, an adjunct scientist at ICES (Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto (U of T), said her team's research will not only look at the collective impact of integrated care but also be led by patient partners.
"Our research is testing the scale and spread of our integrated care program and specifically will measure the impact on older individuals as this is our fastest growing population in the country," Dr. Okrainec said. "As a clinician researcher, I am juggling multiple demands and feel acutely the strain on our system, and I see this research as being able to focus on innovation that will truly make a difference so that we are spending our time driving worthwhile change."
Dr. Furlan, who is also a staff physician at Toronto Rehab and associate professor in the Division of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine in the Department of Medicine at U of T, will lead a project to evaluate the impact of Project ECHO – a virtual platform linking expert interdisciplinary teams with primary care clinicians in local communities – on the delivery of chronic pain treatment.
"I am thankful to Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research, and Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation for sponsoring this grant," said Dr. Furlan. "ECHO's goal isn't just to educate health care professionals but to ensure people living with chronic pain receive the treatment they deserve.
"With this funding we will study the implementation and dissemination of ECHO at UHN and our partner institutions across Canada."
In addition to the projects led by Drs. Okrainec and Furlan, a pair of UHN researchers are also part of teams which received funding in Friday's announcement.