Hemmelgarn, Dr. Brenda

2018 Winner: Outstanding Achievement in Health Innovation

Data platform targets gaps in care for patients with chronic kidney disease

Dr. Brenda Hemmelgarn’s pioneering efforts into chronic kidney disease (CKD) have led to the development of the Alberta Kidney Disease Network (AKDN) and the Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration (ICDC). Through the AKDN, Dr. Hemmelgarn has built an innovative data platform to identify gaps in CKD care, develop strategies to overcome these gaps, and improve patient care and health outcomes

What problem did you see a need to solve and how did you solve this real-world problem?

The problem that we’re addressing is chronic kidney disease, which is actually a common problem. About 10 percent of adults in Canada have chronic kidney disease. We utilize data sources from across Alberta, including administrative and laboratory data, to create a research data platform to determine the gaps in care for patients with chronic kidney disease  

There are international clinical practice guidelines that provide evidence and approaches for various aspects of chronic kidney disease care. What we found looking at these data sources is that there were considerable gaps in care for these patients. We’ve utilized this research data platform to develop tools and strategies to overcome the gaps in care.  

The real aim of this program of research is to prevent the progression and development of kidney failure in these patients. With kidney failure, you need dialysis or kidney transplantation to sustain life. The real focus of this research is to identify kidney disease early to implement best practice, overcome gaps in care and improve care and outcomes for patients with chronic kidney disease  

What has been the impact?

The Alberta Kidney Disease Network was formed in the early 2000s and is a collaboration between nephrologist and kidney researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. It’s an active network where we collaborate and use our resources to study the problems with kidney disease and develop strategies to overcome these problems at a provincewide level. By forming this network, we collaborate formally and informally and have become established and recognized internationally for the work.  

Out of the Alberta Kidney Disease Network came our sister organization, the Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration. It’s a bit broader in that it focuses on other chronic conditions. Patients with kidney disease often have other chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure; our second network broadens the scope of our focus.  

Has being in Alberta helped you find success?

Being in Alberta has been tremendously advantageous to us for the collaborative network in Calgary and Edmonton for our research focus and activities. A second unique thing is the world-renowned clinical, administrative and laboratory data sources that we have in Alberta, which has provided thfoundation for our research activities.  

The third feature that really makes Alberta unique place to be for these research activities is having a single healthcare provider in Alberta Health ServicesThis means we’re able to interact with a single provider rather than several different organizations providing services. Alberta really has been an ideal place to undertake these research activities.   

Who have been your major supporters?

We’ve had many supporters ranging from peers and individuals at the universities to individuals at Alberta Health Services and at the government who have recognized the issues that we’re trying to address and overcome. Our patients have also been thoroughly supportive and engaged in providing input into our activities.  

What are the plans for the future?   

The future is going to be very exciting in two waysOur original activities were tailored to developing strategies for healthcare providers and the development of an online clinical pathway for physicians and pharmacists to help guide management of chronic kidney disease. Now, we’re focusing on developing tools and strategies that are tailored for the patients who have said they want to better understand how to manage their chronic kidney disease We want to give them the ownership and the abilities to manage it.   

The second exciting development is the provincial clinical information system, which is going to be rolling out across the province through Alberta Health Services. It’s going to provide a single electronic medical record for physicians to use with patient portals. This will be another useful tool that patients will have to help better manage their chronic disease and disease conditions in general. 

How does it feel to be an ASTech Finalist?  

am really honoured and humbled to be recognized by the ASTech Foundation and to be recognized with all the other amazing colleagues who are also being honoured as Finalists.