Using data to support research

20 June 2012

British Columbia has the opportunity to be a world leader in harnessing the power of data to improve health and build a better health system.

Over the past three decades, the province has assembled one of the world’s best public health-care databases, representing a gold mine of information. And BC is home to highly-skilled researchers who, with the help of modern analytical technologies, can use these data to save lives, make the health care system more efficient, track emerging health issues, and make BC a leader in developing breakthrough cures and drug treatments.

Yet this valuable resource remains underused due to privacy concerns. In a Vancouver Sun op-ed published June 4, MSFHR President & CEO Dr. Diane Finegood argues that a paradigm shift is needed in our approach to data privacy.

Instead of withholding all access, we must understand that modern technology gives us the tools to protect patient confidentiality while empowering researchers and decision-makers to maximize the use of our data resources. By striking a balance between the need to protect privacy and the health benefits to be gained through data-driven innovation, we can position BC for success in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

“With proper privacy safeguards in place, BC can give its scientists the tools to carry on Dr. Michael Smith’s legacy of world-class health research,” says Dr. Finegood.

The question of how to advance the use of BC’s health data was addressed recently at The Data Effect, a one-day conference co-sponsored by MSFHR that convened researchers and health system leaders from across BC.