Methods Support & Development Platform

Platform lead: Dr. Hude Quan

Our goal is to support you in developing innovative research methods. We are interested in creating “Tools for Better Health”. We have experience using administrative data, electronic medical records (EMR) data and national surveys, and skills around risk adjustment and measuring patient-centered care. We have expertise in a wide variety of research methods and use our in-depth knowledge to provide advice in guiding your research study.

We look at the “how to…” and what methodology to use. Our activity overlaps to a certain degree with each platform while informing translation of knowledge. Our work is closely linked to the Data Platform and the Consultation & Research Services Platform. While the Data Platform provides access and linkage to data bases, our platform provides the methodology to enhance the quality, analyze and evaluate the data.

Services we offer

Help developing innovative methods for using data

We can advise you on how to use data for patient-centered research projects. This includes which datasets may relate to your research question, what each variable within a dataset collects information on, and what analysis would best fit your brief.

We are part of the Methods Hub, which acts as a centre for collaborating across the different methodological research streams such as biostatistical modelling, qualitative research, data analytics, health economics, health informatics and patient-oriented measures. Methodological questions that can not not be addressed by existing SPOR staff will be sent to the Hub members for advice.

Developing Ideas for innovative tools to conduct patient-oriented research

We have a wide range of expertise within the Methods Hub ranging from biostatistical modelling to qualitative research. We can work with you to develop ideas for innovative tools to use in conducting patient-oriented research.

Advice on developing proposals/protocols

We can work with you in preparing for undertaking your patient-oriented research and/or in preparing a grant application. We will consult on proposal development, particularly around methodological issues and concerns.

Identifying data sources

We can help you identify the best data sources for the information you need on patient care.

Developing methodology

You might know what you want to do but not how to do it. We can help you develop robust and innovate methodologies to enable you to complete patient-oriented research. We are currently developing a hub, which will contain information of methodologies and data collection and analysis tools which are suitable for use in patient-oriented research.

Developing and validating ICD coding algorithms for defining disease

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the standard diagnostic tool used for classifying disease and other health problems. In patient-oriented research the ICD may be used either to define the population to study within the dataset or as outcome measures (looking at incidence and prevalence of disease). The ICD-10 codes are detailed and you may be required to collect information from a number of them for your research.

We specialize in assessing the quality of administrative databases through the validation of ICD coding algorithms to identify different conditions in multiple datasets, providing researchers with an understanding of the different data quality issues and an accurate way to identify different patient cohorts using administrative data.

Developing risk adjustment methodologies

We can help you plan your research study to statistically compensate for risk factors related to a specific outcome measure in two or more different patient populations enabling comparison across them.

Advice on measuring patient-centered care

We can provide advice on methodologies to be used to get a good measure of patient-centered care. This includes advice on patient-reported and experience measures to be used at patient and system level, for example options and considerations to take into account before implementing the measures.

Advice on data collection methodology

Before beginning your study, we can advise you on the practicalities of conducting research using the best methodology available. We will comment on the feasibility of completing a proposed research project.

Training on novel methodologies

We can provide training on novel methodologies and we will be providing regular podcasts by methodologists which focus on useful tips and tricks on methods for patient-oriented research. We plan to develop an inventory of service providers that includes specific information on their skillset and services offered. This will include training students and updating established professionals.

Providing quality assessment and validation of ICD coding algorithms for defining disease

Health administrative data provide an alternative to costlier methods of studying population health, including prospective clinical studies or retrospective medical record review, as it provides a population-level picture of different health states and health services utilization.

Since administrative databases were never intended for research purposes, a critical question that must be answered is whether the data fit for their intended use? Factors including accuracy, completeness and comparability of the data must be taken into account to ensure the results produced from the data can be used for optimal health care decision making.

Risk adjustment

Risk adjustment is an important tool which should be used in patient-oriented research to statistically compensate for risk factors related to a specific outcome measure in two or more different patient populations enabling comparison across them. We can provide methods for undertaking risk adjustments and advice around this.

Data visualization

We can assist with preparing tables, charts, graphs and informatics to communicate information about the data.

Data interpretation

We can verify or your interpretation of the data, or provide a summary interpretation of what the results of a data analysis mean.

Advice on writing a methodology section

We can provide you with advice on how best to write up the novel methodology that you have used in your study.


Patient-reported experience measurement and Patient-reported outcome measurement national contact list

More information about the Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit:

The Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit is jointly funded by Alberta Innovates and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.