RI-MUHC research team leads new consortium to make healthcare data more accessible

The new Quebec SmartCare Consortium has received $10M to break down data silos and increase the accessibility of healthcare information to patients, clinicians and researchers.


Montreal, December 13, 2021 - The Opal Health Informatics Group at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is proud to announce the launch of an ambitious new project – the Quebec SmartCare Consortium. Thanks to generous funding from the Health Collaborations Accelerator Fund of the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation and private partners Roche, Novartis, the McGill University Health Centre Foundation and the Cedars Cancer Foundation, this three-year project will bring together a powerful group of public and private healthcare organizations in Quebec, with the goal of demonstrating the efficiency of a solution to digitize all healthcare interactions and make all personal healthcare data accessible to patients by 2030.

“Improved access to patient data will be a win-win-win for patients, clinicians and researchers. It will help patients to better understand their care, allow clinicians to work more efficiently, and help researchers discover new treatments for the future,” says the project’s principal investigator, Dr. John Kildea, a scientist in the Cancer Research Program at the RI-MUHC, as well as co-founder and Research and Development director of the Opal Health Informatics Group. “Our project will demonstrate how Quebec can become a world-leader in the domain. Using the Opal patient portal, we will build a robust digital and governance infrastructure to facilitate health data sharing. Through our consortium, we will also accelerate health innovations through the development of successful partnerships.”

To achieve this goal, the Quebec SmartCare Consortium will harness the power of the award-winning Opal patient portal (opalmedapps.com), developed by the Opal Health Informatics Group at the RI-MUHC. Opal is a smartphone app for patients and a live dashboard for clinicians currently used at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the MUHC. It gives patients access to contextualized medical data and personalized educational material, including appointments, lab results and medical notes as well as the ability to check-in and be notified for appointments using their smartphones.

The project will proceed in two phases. First, the research team will use a process of stakeholder co-design to develop the infrastructure to support SmartCare in three locations: the Cedars Cancer Centre and the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC, and the department of Hemato-Oncology at the Centre hospitalier universitaire Ste-Justine. Simultaneously, initial data will be collected with the existing Opal patient portal. In the second phase, the project will enable remote monitoring of patients using wearable technologies provided by consortium partners VitalTracer and iMD Research, as well as data analytics for AI research by partners My Intelligent Machines and Imagia.

Industry partners Roche and Novartis will help ensure that the consortium’s research is guided by relevant real-world questions and robust data standards. Additionally, over the course of the project, the McGill Centre of Genomics and Policy will work with all partners to develop a data-sharing framework as well as modern guidelines for academic healthcare collaboration with industry.

“The members of the Quebec SmartCare Consortium will form a novel data-sharing hub centred on Opal and its unique capability to share data between patients, clinicians and researchers,” says Dr. Tarek Hijal, radiation oncologist at the MUHC, co-founder and clinical lead of the Opal Health Informatics Group and of the consortium. “The new infrastructure will improve communication between patients and clinicians and provide new insights from patient-generated data using Al.”

The Quebec SmartCare Consortium will also enjoy expert advice and feedback from the Technology Assessment Unit at the MUHC, Lab TNS (Transformation numérique en santé) at Université de Montréal, the Mila AI Institute, Phyla, and the Bureau d’innovation of the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services.

“We are grateful to the Health Collaborations Accelerator Fund of the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation for recognizing the importance of this project that is building on the success of the Opal patient portal, which is used and greatly appreciated by patients at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the MUHC. SmartCare will be a win-win-win for Quebec’s patients, clinicians, and researchers,” concludes Pierre Hurteau, vice-president of the Conseil pour la protection des malades and patient partner of the Quebec SmartCare Consortium.

“Technology is advancing more rapidly than ever before, and we must ensure that health care keeps pace. The MUHC Foundation is proud to support Opal to ensure our health care system uses technology to its every advantage. We are excited to see the impact on patient care and healthcare teams that Opal will bring, as well as the medical breakthroughs it will enable,” says Julie Quenneville, President and CEO of the MUHC Foundation.

“Since its launch five years ago at the Cedars Cancer Centre, the Opal patient portal has received rave reviews from cancer patients for taking the uncertainty out of their hospital visits and reducing stress during a challenging period. The creation of the Quebec SmartCare Consortium is a step forward in improving patient care and accelerating research,” says Jeff Shamie, President & CEO, Cedars Cancer Foundation. The Opal Health Informatics Group is thankful to all hospital foundations and research funding agencies who have supported Opal’s development, including the MUHC Foundation, the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and the Cedars Cancer Foundation.

For more information on the Quebec SmartCare Consortium, visit quebecsmartcare.com About the Research Institute of the MUHC

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and healthcare research centre. The institute, which is affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, is the research arm of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) – an academic health centre located in Montreal, Canada, that has a mandate to focus on complex care within its community. The RI-MUHC supports over 450 researchers and around 1,200 research trainees devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental, clinical and health outcomes research at the Glen and the Montreal General Hospital sites of the MUHC. Its research facilities offer a dynamic multidisciplinary environment that fosters collaboration and leverages discovery aimed at improving the health of individual patients across their lifespan. The RI-MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS). rimuhc.ca

Media contact: Fabienne Landry Communications coordinator, Research, MUHC 514 812-7722 fabienne.landry@muhc.mcgill.ca

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