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Health Informatics

Health technology is undoubtedly a major component of our healthcare system. Health Informatics is an emerging discipline that focuses on health care and the use of technology, in particular, information and communication technologies as an enabler.

At BC Cancer – Victoria, previous work has resulted in enhancement of patient care through the use of ICT such as the telehealth program, which allows virtual physician-to-patient interviews and the use of electronic medical record system for healthcare providers.

Health informatics is one of the research themes at BC Cancer – Victoria. The Health Informatics Research and Development Unit (HIRDU) was formed with the goal of developing an integrated research and learning program to engage patients and their care providers in the use of technology to improve access to and the quality of cancer care.

The formal part of the program began in July of 2008, with prior work in this area performed by BC Cancer – Victoria staff that spanned many disciplines and other research themes within BC Cancer – Victoria. In addition, researchers have links to academic institutions such as the University of Victoria – School of Health Information Science, the University of British Columbia and the University Health Network in Toronto.

The mission of the HIRDU is to solicit, identify, describe and help improve processes, systems, workflow and education in cancer care and research through the use of ICTs. The unit also provides research opportunities for students at the graduate and undergraduate level.

The current areas of research include: 

  • patient-clinician engagement;
  • patient safety through technology;
  • studying the effects of moving to a more paperless environment in radiation therapy; and
  • planning and enabling prostate cancer patients access to their own electronic health records and computerized tools for decision making and monitoring through a web-based portal.

A group of pharmacy staff are currently looking at ways technology can assist clinical staff in the detection and prevention of adverse reactions in patients receiving new chemotherapy that have recently come into the market place.

There is also ongoing research in the area of Telehealth as the team of researchers at BC Cancer – Victoria were the first to pilot the delivery of oncology consults through Telehealth.

The HIRDU remains cognizant that there are many other ways health information technology can improve the healthcare system and will continue to maximize research opportunities in this theme.

Process for Patients 

To date, the majority of the research conducted within this theme pertains to improvement of patient safety and patient engagement through technology.

If you are interested in learning more about our research teams and how you can participate in research projects currently underway please contact Jeff Barnett at

Process for Researchers

The Health Informatics Research and Development Unit works closely with researchers at the School of Health Information Science at the University of Victoria.

Both Dr. Pai and Jeff Barnett are adjunct faculty at the School. In addition, Jeff Barnett is a member of the e-Health Observatory, which is a Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)- and Canada Health Infoway-funded project that aims to monitor the deployment of health information systems in Canada.

The Unit provides space for undergraduate co-op students from the School and, from time to time, has graduate students working on special projects. Students can be involved in a wide variety of research projects as part of their co-op term. In the past, work done by students has contributed to new innovations and enhanced workflow performance at BC Cancer – Victoria . The initiatives have included patient-pharmacist communications regarding the use of natural health products during treatment with palliative chemotherapy, a retrospective review of adverse event profiles of patients receiving oral chemotherapy containing regimens, a review of pharmacy information systems in Canada, and ongoing work on the development of electronic forms and processes for radiation therapy planning.

The unit is funded by grants from the BC Cancer Foundation and other grant-funding organizations such as the Michael Smith Foundation and the CIHR.  



The current team of researchers in Health Informatics Research and Development Unit (HIRDU) are:

  • Dr. Howard Pai
    • Co-leader of HIRDU
    • Radiation Oncologist, BC Cancer – Victoria
    • Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria
  • Jeff Barnett, BSc. (Pharm), MSc, FCSHP
    • Co-leader of HIRDU
    • Director Clinical Informatics, BC Cancer
    • Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria
  • Dr. Brian Weinerman
    • Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer – Victoria
  • Ms Johanna den Duyf
    • Director for Clinical Operations, Systemic Therapy, BC Cancer – Victoria
  • Ms Susan Walisser, BSc.(Pharm)
    • Provincial Pharmacy Professional Practice Leader, BC Cancer
  • Co-op students from the School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria



SOURCE: Health Informatics ( )
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