The BC SUPPORT Unit (the Unit) is a multi-partner organization beginning to transition from start-up phase to regular operations, preparing to support, streamline and increase patient-oriented research throughout BC. We define patient-oriented research as research that engages patients as partners and focuses on patient-identified priorities with the goals of improving patient experiences, health outcomes and the health system. The Unit will have two main roles: providing services to researchers, patients, health care providers and health system decision makers, and facilitating initiatives identified as provincial priorities. The BC unit is one of several being established across the country as part of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) led by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Q & As
To follow are some questions we have been receiving from our stakeholders following CIHR approval of our business plan in December. If you have further questions, please email Interim Leader, Bev Holmes, firstname.lastname@example.org or Interim Operations Lead, Heather Harris, email@example.com.
Q: With the business plan approved, has the Unit begun regular operations?
A: As with other SPOR SUPPORT Units, before regular operations can begin, we need to work with CIHR to complete our SUPPORT Unit funding agreement. This is a detailed document that requires input from several members of the Unit’s Interim Operations Team and Interim Governing Council. As well, all components of the Unit – patient engagement, provincial office/hub, regional centres, data services, methods clusters, etc. – require further planning and preparation for regular operations, which is underway (see below). To guide this work, a new operating plan through June 2016 has been developed and was approved by the Interim Governing Council at their January meeting.
Q: Partners will play a large role in providing Unit services. When will they begin to provide these services?
A: First, the Interim Operations Team needs to create service agreements with partners, and before we can do that, we need to finalize our SUPPORT Unit funding agreement with CIHR. Also, once the service agreements have been finalized, partners may need some time to tailor their services to the Unit. Currently, we are initiating discussions with some partners, with more discussions and the finalizing of service agreements expected in the spring.
Q: What are the current plans for hiring a full-time Executive Director and Scientific Director?
A: Following a recent assessment of priorities for transitioning the Unit from start-up phase to regular operations, we will soon be bringing on a Scientific Director to help develop the Unit’s scientific components at a faster rate. In the meantime, Dr. Martin Schechter is continuing with his part-time secondment from MSFHR to serve as Interim Scientific Lead.
Plans for hiring a full-time Executive Director have been put on hold while we determine more details about the Unit’s permanent governance structure and the provincial office/hub. In the meantime, Dr. Bev Holmes continues to be seconded part time from MSFHR as Interim Leader
We are preparing to hire additional personnel soon. Please check in with our Careers page for job postings in the coming weeks.
Q: How do I apply for a BC SUPPORT Unit grant?
A: At this point, our business plan doesn’t include traditional grant programs. Instead, the budget is going toward the development and provision of Unit services, such as training, to support patient-oriented research; the creation of methods clusters; the development and implementation of provincial priority projects; and the development and implementation of the provincial data platform, all which will play key roles in advancing patient-oriented research and translating research knowledge to the health care system.
The first meeting of the Unit’s expanded patient engagement reference group took place on January 15. The purpose of this in-person meeting was to review work done to date and to discuss overall goals, principles, critical success factors and next steps for the development of the patient engagement plan.
Collectively, the group represents the perspectives of patients, researchers, clinicians, and health authority administrators, as well as patient engagement and knowledge translation experts. Led by the Unit’s interim patient & stakeholder engagement lead, the group includes two patient partners, an individual from each of the regions who can speak to whether the evolving strategy will work within their locales, and a representative of the First Nations Health Authority. All of the current members are either members of the Unit’s Interim Governing Council or their designates.
The Interim Operations Team is continuing to identify and confirm services that the provincial office/hub will provide along with our partners once regular operations begin. Where possible, the team is beginning discussions with partners. Once the Unit has finalized our SUPPORT Unit funding agreement with CIHR, we will be able to confirm partner services as well as additional services hub staff will provide once they’ve been hired.
Members of the regional centre working group recently completed a survey to prioritize topics for an upcoming workshop that will cover some of the steps they need to take to set up their regional centres. Work is also underway to create templates for regional centre business plans and budgets.
An agreement is under development with Population Data BC (PopData) to act as an agent of the Unit – under the direction of the Unit’s leadership and governance – to develop and oversee the implementation of the Unit’s data plan. A related planning meeting among the Unit, PopData and the Ministry of Health took place this month. In addition, a data advisory group will be formed to advise the Unit on data related initiatives.
Dr. Linda Li was identified in 2015 to lead the Unit’s Knowledge Translation and Implementation Science methods cluster once its development is underway. Dr. Li is Associate Professor, Harold Robinson/Arthritis Society Chair in Arthritic Diseases, and Canada Research Chair in Patient-Oriented Knowledge Translation at the Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia. She is also a Senior Scientist at the Arthritis Research Canada. We look forward to telling you more about this methods cluster as it begins to develop.
In 2016, the Unit’s Interim Operations Team is beginning work to identify the leads of three more methods clusters: Data Sciences; Real-World Clinical Trials and Patient-Oriented Research Methodology; and Evidence Reviews and Syntheses.
The first two provincial priority projects the Unit will support are also our demonstration projects. One is Permission to Contact with Dr. Robert McMaster as the principal investigator (PI), and the other is the research component of the BC Emergency Medicine Network with Dr. Jim Christenson as the PI. The Unit’s Interim Scientific Lead, Dr. Martin Schechter, and Interim Operations Lead, Heather Harris, are currently working with the PIs to confirm their plans and budgets. We look forward to telling you more about these projects in the months to come.
Career development and training for patient-oriented research
The Unit expects to begin to develop a career development and training plan for patient-oriented research during the second quarter of 2016. In the meantime, progress continues with the SPOR national curriculum reference group’s development of a course, Foundations in Patient-Oriented Research.
A two-day meeting has been set for early February in Saskatoon, hosted by the Saskatchewan SUPPORT Unit to help finalize modules 1 and 2 of the course. BC SUPPORT Unit Interim Patient & Stakeholder Engagement Lead Colleen McGavin will present her work on module 1 and Krista Ritchie from Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax will present her work on module 2. Representatives of the teaching and learning centres of both the Universities of Saskatchewan and Regina will be on hand to lend their expertise. The aim is to have the two modules completed by the end of March.
Events and job postings beyond the Unit
The 7th International Conference on Patient- and Family-Centered Care: Partnerships in Care, Interprofessional Education, and Research, to be held July 25-27, 2016, in New York City, will showcase exemplary programs that promote partnerships with patients and families that are essential to redesigning health care, bringing about transformation in organizational culture, and improving the quality, safety, and experience of care. For more information and to register, visit the Institute for Patient and Family Care website.
Alberta’s SPOR SUPPORT Unit has posted a job ad for a patient engagement (PE) project manager who will play a key role in supporting the design, implementation and evaluation of their PE services and activities. Based in Edmonton, this position will provide support to both researchers and patients. For more information, please see the job ad.
Connecting with stakeholders
Members of our Interim Operations Team continue to make presentations to various stakeholder groups interested in learning in person about SPOR and the development of the BC SUPPORT Unit. When you meet with us in person, we are able to hear your ideas about critical success factors for the Unit and how you might be able to get involved in the Unit’s regular operations as they roll out. To book a presentation, please see our Contact page.