By Sean O’Malley
From the moment Dr. Sean Hill entered discussions with CAMH that would ultimately lead to him being appointed the inaugural director of the Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics, he had a clear vision for how he wanted to improve the lives of patients and foster research innovation.
Three years later, that vision is being brought to the real-world of patient care at CAMH in the form of the BrainHealth Databank.
“I knew it would be essential from the very first interviews,” says Dr. Hill. “CAMH was already a leader in adopting electronic health records, which was an important prerequisite, but that was not enough. We needed a system in place where clinicians, researchers, patients and families are all engaged in helping us get high-quality data that can improve care.”
The core goal of the BrainHealth Databank team, led by Senior Portfolio Manager Dr. Joanna Yu, is to re-engineer how CAMH collects and uses patient data to deliver improved, personalized mental health care, while accelerating clinical research, discovery and innovation at CAMH and ultimately around the world.
It is also at the heart of a culture shift embodied in the CAMH’s strategic plan, one where all stakeholders—from clinicians to researchers to patients and families—are part of a hospital-wide collaborative effort to enhance patient-centred, measurement-based care.
“What we are hoping to achieve is the building up of a learning-based health system where clinical and research are integrated such that care and research findings are translated back into clinical practice,” says Dr. Yu. “For example, later this year, we will be launching a depression biomarker study in which the collection of additional personalized measures are embedded within the Major Depressive Disorder-Integrated Care Pathway (MDD-ICP). In this study, a saliva sample is collected for genetics analysis and a wrist wearable monitoring device passively collects daily activity and sleep data. Our hope is that we will be able to evolve the current version of the MDD-ICP clinical decision support dashboard by returning genetic test results and visually descriptive information about a patient’s sleep patterns which can then be used to inform treatment decisions.”
Krembil Centre Operations Director David Rotenberg says that CAMH’s dual role as a hospital and an academic research centre makes it the ideal setting to apply the principles of big data and machine learning to provide more individualized mental health care.
“What we are trying to do is build a scaffold that allows us to store and manage different kinds of data and link them together in a way that’s intuitive and accessible,” says Rotenberg. “The core is the care plan each patient has at CAMH using standard measures. With the BrainHealth Databank, we can now layer new things on it like genetic testing and wearables that can measure sleep and waking activity. Our ultimate goal is that all the patient data and research projects will allow it to continue to grow and become richer over time in a way that will enhance research and improve care now and in the future.”