If you have ever wondered how researchers access and manage health data in the province of Alberta – a single Canadian province with a centralised health system – a recent article published in the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS) by a research team at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta is here to provide you with all the information on the well-established and streamlined processes that facilitate timely data access.

This article, Health Data Governance for Research Use in Alberta, describes the data governance around the data holdings, data sources and types, mechanisms ensuring data privacy and security, and steps to follow for requesting data for research in Alberta, Canada.  A centralised health system managed by a single health authority provides benefits in many ways:

  1. A consolidated Health Data and Analytics department with a centralised team of Master’s and PhD trained analysts to assist with data access and analytics needs.
  2. A single province-wide Clinical Information System called Connect Care provides a central access point to patient health data.
  3. A secure High-Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure established in partnership between the health system and the academic community.
  4. A Research Administration team and harmonised Research Ethics Boards ensure confidentiality, privacy, and secure health data handling.

Many countries around the world collect rich health data providing numerous opportunities for research to potentially enhance treatments and improve health care systems. With the increase in the breadth of data collected, effective data governance models are essential for ensuring data privacy and confidentiality. The streamlined research processes and health data governance mechanisms, with integrated and centralised systems and teams in Alberta are a great example of how to support a wide variety of research using health data in a secure manner whilst always ensuring data privacy.

Cathy Eastwood added, “A centralized health system with robust privacy and security measures make data access and governance for healthcare research highly efficient in Alberta, Canada.”


Click here to read the full open access article

Catherine Eastwood, Adjunct Associate Professor, and Namneet Sandhu, Epidemiologist, Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Canada

Sandhu, N., Whittle, S., Southern, D., Li, B., Youngson, E., Bakal, J., Mcleod, C., Hilderman, L., Williamson, T., Cheligeer, C., Walker, R., Kaul, P., Quan, H. and Eastwood, C. (2023) “Health Data Governance for Research Use in Alberta”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 8(4). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v8i4.2160.