HELP MD – A novel data-driven approach to study physician wellness

September 21, 2020

Dr. Peter Tanuseputro "As doctors ourselves, we have seen how much our own health can affect our practice. As researchers, we wanted to figure out how to help.”- Dr. Peter TanuseputroPhysician-researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the Bruyère Research Institute are leading a novel data-driven research initiative to better understand and improve physician health and wellness. The initiative, called Health Evaluation and Liveliness for Physicians through Meaningful Data or HELP MD, is made possible through a contribution of $420,000 from the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). 

“The proverb ‘Physician, heal thyself’ reminds us to take care of our own needs so that we are able to care for others,” says Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, a physician-scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and ICES, investigator at the Bruyère Research Institute and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. “This is a passion project that Dr. Manish Sood and I have been working towards for the past three years. As doctors ourselves, we have seen how much our own health can affect our practice. As researchers, we wanted to figure out how to help.”

“Physician health and wellness is a growing concern in this country, and we need to work together to address this. Therefore, we are proud to support research that helps fill the gap in wellness data and will lead to the development of programs and initiatives to improve physician health,” says Dr. Ann Collins, CMA President.

Initially supported by the Bruyère Centre for Individualized Health, the HELP MD team has linked anonymized data from over 50,000 physicians from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to the vast health databases at ICES (formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences). This linked database is the largest population-level physician health database in North America.

The first study of this initiative will focus on the mental health of physicians in Ontario. Specifically, the HELP MD team will examine rates of suicide, attempted suicide, and self-harm among Ontario physicians. “We hope that our work will not only continue some very important conversations on physician health and wellness, but will also provide concrete evidence as to where there are risks, and how we can better help our colleagues.”- Dr. Manish Sood

A second study will examine how physicians interact with their own doctors, including how physicians are being treated by family doctors or specialists and how regularly they see them. Both studies will look at differences between age groups, sexes, and physician specialties.

Future studies will investigate possible links between the health of physicians and their patients, also using anonymized data.  

“There is a lot of stigma in the medical profession when it comes to mental health and accessing services,” says Dr. Manish Sood, a physician-scientist and Jindal Research Chair for the Prevention of Kidney Disease at The Ottawa Hospital, adjunct scientist at ICES and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “We hope that our work with HELP MD will not only continue some very important conversations on physician health and wellness, but will also provide concrete evidence as to where there are risks, and how we can better help our colleagues and in turn their patients.”

HELP MD is a multidisciplinary group that includes local, provincial, and national physician wellness groups, as well as clinician scientists. It is managed by Emily Rhodes, clinical research assistant at The Ottawa Hospital.

About The Ottawa Hospital

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

About the Bruyère Research Institute

The Bruyère Research Institute supports investigators who contribute to a better, more responsive health care system that delivers the best care to patients, residents and families. The Institute is a proud partner of Bruyère Continuing Care, the University of Ottawa and others and provides solutions to improve the health and health care of aging and vulnerable Canadians. The Institute is home to the Centre for Individualized Health, an innovative data science hub that creates evidence to improve health decision-making.

About ICES

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care 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. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

About the Canadian Medical Association 

Since 1867, the Canadian Medical Association has been the national voice of Canada’s medical profession. We work with physicians, residents and medical students on issues that matter to the profession and the health of Canadians. We advocate for policy and programs that drive meaningful change for physicians and their patients.

For more information, please contact:

Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Cell: 613-297-8315

Stéfanie Power
Director of Communications and Community Engagement
Bruyère Continuing Care
Cell: 613-864-7849

Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

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