The nation’s healthcare system faces enormous current and future challenges, including patient safety, spiralling costs, and personnel shortages. Safer, more cost-effective healthcare is necessary for a population whose demand for healthcare services will escalate significantly over the next two decades, requiring a substantial increase of all levels of health professionals. Because of the aging population, chronic diseases are on the rise and will continue to contribute to Canada’s increasing health costs. In addition, within the publicly funded healthcare system, the rate of increase of homecare expenditures in Canada is one of the fastest, second only to medication expenditures.
Clearly, there is a need for cost-effective solutions for managing spiralling costs, and to address the healthcare challenges in the face of an aging Canadian population. Multiple aspects of the theory, practice and policy of healthcare must be addressed when determining solutions. NSERC Strategic Research Network in Healthcare Support through Information Technology Enhancements (hSITE) is concerned with one key aspect, namely improving healthcare delivery by using Information Technology (IT) to increase efficiency (e.g., better workflows) and reduce costs (e.g., more efficient clinicians, thus fewer needed). Studies have shown that for specific application cases, proper usage of IT in clinical settings can lead to both improved patient safety and system efficiency, but ways to fully obtain these benefits in more general settings remain an open problem. To ensure that the hSITE research agenda is scoped to succeed with the planned resources, three contexts and three themes focusing on these contexts have been identified, as articulated in the following section.
In order to establish appropriate scope and focus for the proposed research program, hSITE will consider three healthcare contexts, which illustrate healthcare centric IT research problems:
The Network has been divided into three research themes linked by cross-cutting healthcare contexts:
The systems developed within hSITE will be prototyped and evaluated within the context of a Demonstrations and Prototypes theme. Revised requirements and design recommendations will be identified as a consequence of the evaluation of designed prototypes.
The proposed research structure is designed to achieve focus, coherence, and efficiency in executing the hSITE research vision while establishing a close link between clinicians and their needs, and engineers and their solutions.
The hSITE Team includes: 17 researchers from seven Canadian universities, seven partner companies and 11 healthcare organizations. The Network proposes to train 40-50 graduate students and three Post-Doctoral Fellows, as well as another 25-30 self-funded students throughout its five-year program.
The Network is governed by a Board of Directors; the Scientific Committee oversees research projects and priorities and recommends research budget allocations to the Board; the Health Systems Relationship Advisory Committee advises the Board and Scientific Committee on subjects of relevance.
The research agenda of the hSITE Network is to develop an application-driven program of engineering research to design novel, advanced communications systems and infrastructures to improve healthcare efficiency through improved workflows, patient care, and safety.
hSITE research targets advances in the areas of wireless communications, networking, middleware architecture, location technologies and smart systems with the goal of developing a smart, context-aware infrastructure that seamlessly follows the clinician, integrates into clinical workflows and provides the intelligence, dependability, ease of use, and flexibility needed to meet the demanding requirements of a clinical environment.
Dr. David V. Plant
Ms Kay Johnson