As we collect more information in digital form, there are an ever increasing number of opportunities to analyze this data. One interesting example is the recently announced Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN). Although the name may seem rather academic and dry, CPCSSN is an exciting initiative to extract useful knowledge about chronic disease from the data collected by Canadian family physicians and stored in their electronic medical record (EMR) systems.
CPCSSN is a joint program of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. According the the CPCSSN website:
“…a group of select family doctors across the country have agreed to allow CPCSSN to collect information about their patients from their electronic databases. Data that is accessed is processed so that the personal information about the patients is removed; identifying information will not leave the doctors’ office. The information is first sent to one of the regional centres to be possessed and put in the proper form. It is then sent to the central database to be combined with information from all the other regional centres in Canada.”
The central database will be analyzed to help “physicians better understand chronic disease and improve the care Canadians with chronic disease receive.” For example, “data could be used to provide differences in disease rates, like arthritis, in populations of Alberta, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces to better understand the need for health resources in different regions.”
CPCSSN is an example of the benefits that can be derived from digitizing the delivery of healthcare services. Information stored in digital form can be re-used many times for a multitude of purposes including research.