Health Services Research

Improving cancer care for all Manitobans

The Health Services Research (HSR) discipline, formalized at the Institute in 2015, is applied research focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Manitoba’s healthcare system. The HSR Lab's goal is to conduct innovative and rigorous research to identify and support the most effective ways to organize, manage, and deliver high-quality cancer care for Manitobans. Health services research is a part of the cancer research puzzle and works in conjunction with basic and translational research (understanding how cells function and how cancer starts, grows, and spreads and then translating these results into improved treatments and therapies), clinical research (studying promising treatments and tools in people as part of clinical studies), and patient experience research (studying the interactions between patients and the health care system). Health service research represents the overlap between the provision of clinical care and research and innovation at the population level.

System-wide and multidisciplinary research

The HSR lab focuses on three areas of research: Data science, delivery science, and implementation science. Data science is the study of how we can use novel data science methods and technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to support and advance research across the cancer control research continuum. Delivery science is the study and evaluation of clinical, organizational, and system-level policies and practices to understand their impact on cancer outcomes. Implementation science is the study of methods to promote the adoption and integration of evidence-based practices, interventions, and policies into routine health care to improve the impact on population health.

Health services research spans the entire cancer control continuum, from screening and diagnosis to treatment and end-of-life care. Our research is multidisciplinary and includes many different scientists and clinicians. Critically, health system providers are also included right from the start so they can translate new knowledge into practice to improve our healthcare system. Most importantly, patients participate to let us know what is important to them, and what questions we should be asking in the future.

Health equity is a core focus

Quality and equity are central to our research. High quality care is care that is effective, safe, patient-centered, timely, and efficient. Equitable care means providing care that does not vary in quality on account of sex, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or area of residence. All of these factors can impact how we access healthcare. Consider geography and population distribution, for example. Manitoba is a large province with a relatively small, spread-out population living in urban, rural, and remote locations. How we interact with the healthcare system can vary significantly based on where we live — and this is just one factor. Health services research looks at how care is impacted by these factors and how we can reduce inequities.

Analyzing health data to find answers

We aim to improve the availability of novel data for cancer research, enhance our knowledge about the impact of health care delivery on cancer outcomes, and increase our understanding of how to best implement evidence-based practice that improves cancer care. Our research can be used to support the development of a Learning Health System in which health data leads to iterative cycles of knowledge generation and healthcare improvement (the data-knowledge-practice cycle).

Working with high-quality data is central to health services research. The HSR Lab uses data from many sources including the Manitoba Cancer Registry and the Research Institute’s Informatics Platform. These data are often linked with data from Manitoba Health administrative data to understand how and when the health care system is used.

Data-driven research requires powerful technology tools such as AI, machine learning and natural language processing, all of which are used by HSR Lab scientists to conduct more sophisticated and in-depth analysis than was previously possible. Data processed in health services research is frequently shared with basic and clinical scientists to support their work as well.

Current research

Some of our current projects include:

  • Measuring cancer surgery quality indicators and improving cancer surgery through continuous feedback
  • Using machine learning and natural language processing to determine cancer recurrence and progression
  • Evaluating the impact of Noona, CCMB’s patient-reported outcome and communication app, on cancer outcomes
  • Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer control in Manitoba
  • Studying whether cancer navigation services (cancer patient journey support) reduces the impact of equity-related factors for women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Recent publications
The 3 Interrelated Research Disciplines at the Institute: