Dr. Mario Elia awarded a Physicians’ Services Incorporated (PSI) Foundation grant for Healthcare Research by Community Physicians

The Department of Family Medicine is at the forefront of primary health care research. Among the areas of interest are patient-centred care, clinical practice guidelines, health promotion, community and population health, health services and systems, and medical education.

As we continue to embrace a cohesive vision of research, quality improvement and scholarly activity in Family Medicine, we are dedicated to supporting, assisting and enhancing faculty members' participation in such activities.

Dr. Mario Elia, adjunct professor in the Department of Family Medicine, was recently awarded a Physicians’ Services Incorporated (PSI) Foundation grant for Healthcare Research by Community Physicians for his research project, Feasibility Pilot Evaluation of Prescription to Get Active.

The research project involves one medical clinic with 11 family doctors screening patients as they come in for other appointments. Patients are given iPads in the waiting room and are asked a series of questions to assess their levels of physical activity. If they are getting below 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, as recommended by the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, they are invited to participate in the study.

If a patient is recommended for the study, they will review the appropriateness of their participation with their family physician. If it is determined that they are eligible for the study, the physician will write a prescription instructing the patient to get more physical activity (a Prescription to Get Active). The patient will then receive information about different options for increasing their physical activity – this includes activity at their own home, in parks or public places near their homes, or at participating gyms like GoodLife Fitness (where they can receive a 30-day free trial with a prescription).

To gauge improvements over time, study participants complete assessments related to engagement and enjoyment of physical activity, mental health, self-control and habit-forming abilities at the time of the prescription, and again after 30 days, three months and six months.

The inspiration behind the study was to evaluate a program already in-place in clinics across Canada to determine whether this form of intervention works. Specifically, we were exploring the impact of a family physician prescribing physical activity on a patient’s level of engagement and enjoyment of physical activity, their mental health, and their self-control/habit-forming abilities.

According to Dr. Elia, the grant application was fairly straightforward and easy to follow.

“Much of the study description came from the Research Ethics Board (REB) submission our team was already in the process of developing,” said Dr. Elia. “We only really needed to develop a budget with justification for the amount.”

The grant will cover the cost of the technology employed to send follow-up surveys to the patients participating in the study through the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system that the clinic uses.

“The benefit of using this system, as opposed to a different survey platform or email system, is that patients already receive communication from the clinic in this way and are familiar with it,” said Dr. Elia. “In theory, this should result in a higher likelihood of patients completing the follow-up survey.”

Community faculty interested in pursuing research are encouraged to consider a grant opportunity available through the Physicians’ Services Incorporated (PSI) Foundation.

The Grants for Healthcare Research by Community Physicians aim to assist physicians practicing in a community setting to undertake a review of their practice patterns with the goal of enhancing effectiveness of practice and patient care in their own clinic, hospital or region.

Grants of up to $20,000 are available to cover the costs of the data gathering and analysis, support staff and preparation of reports. Up to an additional $500 will be provided for travel costs incurred in presenting papers on the results of a community practice study.

It is important to note that grant funds cannot be paid directly to a physician, and therefore arrangements must be made with a hospital or other charitable institution in the community to administer the grant. PSI asks that each application include a letter from the appropriate person at the hospital or institution administering the grant, and that the authorized officer of the hospital or institution also sign the application.

Evidence of approval of the local review committee for research ethics is required as applicable. A formal approval form from the local research ethics committee must be provided to the Foundation before funds can be released on a grant.

The PSI Foundation no longer has deadlines. You may submit an application at any time. For more information, and a detailed explanation of how to apply for a Healthcare Research by Community Physicians grant, visit the PSI website.