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November 10, 2014

HQC researcher supports Variations and Appropriateness work

Laura Schwartz is a researcher at the Health Quality Council Laura Schwartz, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in community health and epidemiology, joined the Health Quality Council (HQC) team in July 2012.

As a researcher, Laura is involved in a variety of projects at HQC, including the Appropriateness/Best Practice Outcome work, for which she provides measurement support for two of the clinical pathways under development in Saskatchewan. Some of her other accomplishments include helping with the Emergency Department Waits and Patient Flow Initiative, as well as coordinating a primary health care survey called Quality and Costs in Primary Care (QUALICO).

Currently, one of Laura’s main duties is supporting the Variations and Appropriateness Working Group (VAWG). Below, Laura talks about VAWG, why she enjoys working at HQC and what she she’s doing when she’s not in the office.

You are currently working with VAWG. Can you explain what that is?

VAWG was a part of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative (SkSI), which aimed to provide “sooner, safer, smarter” surgery to Saskatchewan residents. The VAWG project relates to the” smarter” goal of the SkSI. It was established in 2012 to work with physician groups to identify and understand variation in surgical care that exists across the province and, when appropriate, to explore ideas on how to reduce variation. A key role of VAWG is to support physicians in leading the development of a shared understanding of how patients are treated in Saskatchewan. We currently have four clinical working groups – vascular, urology, lower spine and mastectomy – working towards understanding why variation exists throughout the province.  

What is your role in the VAWG work?

Along with fellow HQC researcher Jessica Hamilton, I provide support to the day-to-day work that is defined by the VAWG core and advisory groups and is carried out by the physicians. For example, we worked with the province’s vascular surgeons to help them visualize their processes with patients to diagnose and treat certain blood circulation problems of the leg. We helped them define the kinds of outcomes they hoped to achieve for and with their patients, and identified key steps in the process where variation in practice currently exists. Next we worked with them to define measurements and reports that would help them better manage, standardize and understand the success of the care they provide.  Most of those measurements required data to be captured that was either not currently being captured in a manner that could be readily analyzed or was not captured at all. We worked with surgeons and their office staff to develop and implement data forms that would capture the data required for regular reporting back to the surgeons. We are responsible for entering the data and staying connected with the office staff to help in any way we can with the data collection process. We are also working with eHealth to move this database and data collection process over to an electronic format.

How does the work you do at the Health Quality Council help improve Saskatchewan’s health care system?

We are working towards providing appropriate care. This means that patients will receive the care they need, at the time they need, in the place they need. 

Why should people consider research as a career path?

I don’t do research in the traditional, academic sense. It’s a bit more applied and about learning how to use real-time information to improve the care that is provided to a patient in a timely manner.  Real-time information is very appealing to me, because I believe you can quickly make a positive difference in the health care system.

You’ve been working at HQC for more than two years now. What inspires you in your workplace?

I’m inspired to help people and make a difference in their lives. I feel like I can help make an impact on the care that Saskatchewan patients receive.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with my husband, family and friends. I have a close group of girlfriends that I meet twice a week to work out with, and that has become a big part of my life. Other things I enjoy doing are reading, cooking and drinking coffee. I’m definitely a warm weather person and spend as much time at the lake as I can every summer. Lastly, I love travelling and try to do it as much as my budget will allow! 

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