When patients arrive at Baycrest Health Sciences' Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic this upcoming June, they will be greeted by a doctor or nurse with an iPad that will be used to conduct neurological assessments of their memory and cognitive abilities.
With patients' consent, information collected through the device will be part of a secure electronic platform that pools anonymous medical records from clinics across Toronto to accelerate the pace of dementia research and provide access to better integrated care for patients.
Baycrest's memory clinic will be the initial pilot site for the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance (TDRA) database, which will allow TDRA researchers to share research data across institutions and access a greater pool of volunteer research participants.
"Innovative projects like this one will help advance research and make real impact on the lives of patients. I look forward to seeing the results and learnings that can be shared across the country to improve dementia care," says Jane Philpott, Minister of Health.
This project was initiated with support from the recently announced $3 million grant provided by a partnership between the Government of Canada and Brain Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating neuroscience research which receives financial support from Health Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund.
This includes matched funds from the University of Toronto, Baycrest, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University Health Network (UHN). The funding was awarded to Dr. Morris Freedman, Baycrest's Head, Division of Neurology, and Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) scientist, Dr. Stephen Strother, RRI senior scientist, and Dr. David Tang-Wai, Co-Director of UHN's Memory Clinic and scientist at the Krembil Research Institute. They worked with personnel across all TDRA sites to implement and test the database starting with Baycrest.
"Dementia is one of the greatest demographic challenges we've ever faced as a species and despite decades of substantial private and public investment, society has not come up with any meaningful medication to help those with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias," says Dr. William Reichman, president and CEO of Baycrest. "Collaborative studies, such as this pilot project, are instrumental in fast-tracking the pace of research and in bringing the latest innovations to those in need."
This pilot project will convert standardized neurological assessments from pen and paper tests to an electronic device, which will allow the data to be captured within the TDRA database. After pilot testing, the database will be rolled out to Sunnybrook, followed by other University of Toronto member institutions (CAMH and UHN).
Research into potential treatments can be slowed down when recruitment of participants with dementia is limited to a single hospital clinic. This tool will accelerate the recruitment of suitable volunteers for clinical studies across all TDRA clinics and bring researchers closer to discovering effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
"To find a cure for dementia, we need to use powerful 'big data' techniques and pool our efforts to create much larger, standardized and well-characterized dementia databases that reflect our real-world clinical populations," says Dr. Strother, a scientist who specializes in neuroinformatics (a research area that applies big data analysis to brain data).
Along with the database's research benefits, this system will be used to create an electronic health record for patients in the future, which includes standardized cognitive assessments and clinical consultation letters for referring physicians.
"The database will facilitate clinical research while simultaneously contributing to more efficient patient care, and serves as an excellent example of research embedded in clinical care," says Dr. Freedman.
"Our platform will simultaneously manage the clinical and research care of patients in a cost and time-saving manner and accelerate innovation for research in neurodegenerative diseases," says Dr. Tang-Wai. "It will provide a myriad of benefits for patients, health care providers, researchers, and policy makers -- and when established, could be shared with other sites in Ontario, in Canada, and beyond."
This database will encourage other memory clinics to adopt standardized neurological testing, the Behavioural Neurology Assessment-Revised, now on an iPad, which was developed by the TDRA.
This project also receives support from the TDRA and philanthropic funding, which helped the team hire staff, set up database servers and purchase the necessary equipment.
About Baycrest Health Sciences
Baycrest Health Sciences is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals and one of the world's top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute. Baycrest is home to the federally and provincially-funded Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector, and is the developer of Cogniciti - a free online memory assessment for Canadians 40+ who are concerned about their memory. Founded in 1918 as the Jewish Home for Aged, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information please visit: http://www.
About Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment, and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.