The Opal Health Informatics Group (O-HIG) is the research team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre that designs, develops and operates the award-winning Opal patient portal technology. It is a unique research team that formed out of a collaboration between Laurie Hendren, a patient who was also a computer scientist, Tarek Hijal, a clinician, and John Kildea, a researcher.
The collaboration started in 2014 when Laurie was a breast cancer patient receiving radiotherapy at the McGill University Health Centre under Tarek’s care. Tarek and John were already working on a number of informatics projects and Tarek introduced Laurie to John. The three hit it off immediately and decided to work together to use computational techniques to improve the experiences of patients in the Quebec healthcare system.
Opal was born as the trio’s attempt to provide patients with access to their healthcare data. It proved very popular with patients, clinicians, and researchers and through generous funding provided by MUHC hospital foundations and various research grants, the Opal app was released to cancer patients at the Cedars Cancer Centre in 2018.
Laurie sadly lost her battle with cancer and left the team in 2019. However, she left behind a strong legacy and a vision to provide Quebec patients with access to their healthcare data. It is this vision that Tarek and John continue to fight for using Opal. Within the O-HIG, John leads research and development and Tarek the clinical operations.
The Quebec SmartCare Consortium is the next step for the O-HIG. Working with the consortium partners, the research team will further develop Opal’s technology to move data from wearable devices to patients and on to clinicians and ultimately to researchers. The team is aiming to achieve Laurie’s vision and achieve a win-win-win for patients, clinicians and researchers.