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New Hamilton research facility provides secure access to Ontario’s health data


McMaster University researcher John You found that a provincial initiative to improve access to MRI scans did so for wealthy Ontarians but not for people from poorer neighbourhoods. McMaster health services researcher Hsien Seow discovered that increased end-of-life homecare reduced unnecessary hospitalizations, hospital emergency visits and deaths while reducing overall system cost. Their findings are examples of research using administrative health data securely provided by the province’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

They are among the researchers who will use the new ICES McMaster research facility, ICES’ newest satellite site, opening at McMaster’s Health Sciences Centre. The facility is a joint collaboration between ICES and McMaster with its academic hospitals Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

The facility will help scientists develop better ways to assess the quality and safety of healthcare in Ontario by accessing millions of anonymous healthcare records from across the province. ICES' vast and secure array of population-wide health-related data includes population-based health surveys, anonymous patient records, as well as clinical and administrative databases. The data can be linked together at the individual level while keeping all records anonymous and protected.

The new 2,300 square-foot facility with 14 workstations has been made both physically and data secure, and scientists who would like to work with the data must pass a rigorous screening process. Previously, most Hamilton researchers have had to travel to ICES’ central office in Toronto to access the ICES data. Seven McMaster scientists are currently approved as ICES researchers, but more will be vetted.

Current areas of research focus at the McMaster site are health services research and health policy; gastrointestinal disorders; patient safety; child and youth health; mental health and addiction; sports and exercise medicine; access to and quality of healthcare; social determinants of health; drug interactions; palliative and end-of-life care; oncology; and developmental disorders.

“McMaster is the birthplace of evidence-based medicine, and access to this unique database will enhance our research community’s ability to remain at the forefront of innovation in healthcare,” said Dr. Steve Collins, associate dean, research for McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences. “This facility will be a catalyst for collaborations between faculty members across many disciplines through the university and with our hospital partners and other universities that will result in improvements to healthcare in Ontario.”

Michael Schull, president and CEO of ICES, said: “We’re very pleased that ICES McMaster will now join our other ICES satellites in Kingston, Ottawa, Toronto and London, and soon another new satellite in northern Ontario. By regionally expanding the number of scientists and the breadth of scientific expertise available, the ICES satellites extend the capacity of ICES to generate high-quality research that contributes to the effectiveness, quality, equity and efficiency of healthcare and health services for all people in Ontario.”

Site director for McMaster’s ICES site is John Cairney, who is also a professor of family medicine for McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. He added: “We know this will be a high use facility for both research and the training of highly qualified personnel, and this will expand both the capacity and capability of researchers here in Hamilton.”

About McMaster University – McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 30,000, and more than 170,000 alumni in 137 countries.

About the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) – ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Its unbiased evidence provides measure of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario


  • Veronica McGuire
  • Media Relations, Faculty of Health Sciences
  • McMaster University
  • 905-525-9140, ext. 22169
  • [email protected]


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