Welcome potential Sentinels!

Below you will find answers to some common questions.

If you are interested in getting more information about becoming a sentinel, please contact your Regional Network.

What is CPCSSN?

  • CPCSSN stands for Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network.
  • CPCSSN is a network of networks. It is made up of a central office and 10 primary care research networks across eight provinces.
  • CPCSSN is a primary care research initiative—it is the first pan-Canadian multi-disease electronic medical record surveillance system.
  • We collect health information from the Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) in the offices of participating primary care providers (called sentinels).
  • Our aim is to improve the quality of care for Canadians suffering from five chronic and mental health conditions (hypertension, osteoarthritis, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—COPD—and depression) and three neurologic conditions (Alzheimer’s and related dementias, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease).
  • CPCSSN makes it possible to securely collect and report on vital information from Canadians’ health records to improve the way these chronic diseases and neurologic conditions are managed.

How do patients and Canadians benefit from physicians enrolling as sentinels?

  • CPCSSN supports greater access and timely feedback to primary care practitioners about their patients, which builds a community of practitioners who share information about their practice with each other on a regular basis.
  • National surveillance is a benefit for those who belong to CPCSSN. The data gives a more comprehensive provincial picture of what is happening to a sentinel’s patients compared to other practices and jurisdictions.

How many of my colleagues have you recruited to date?

  • We are on track to have 600 to 1,000 sentinels by March 2015, which is our target.
  • As of March 2013, CPCSSN has enrolled 415 sentinels across eight provinces, representing about 494,000 patients

Why should I participate in CPCSSN?

  • CPCSSN reports help primary care practitioners better understand chronic disease and improve the care Canadians with chronic disease receive.. Our reports will also help health planners understand where chronic illness is happening, where it is not, and why.
  • It’s about knowing and understanding chronic illnesses so that we can prevent these conditions, and better treat patients who have these illnesses.
  • Patients can find comfort in knowing that being involved in the care process allows them and their doctor to make sense of EMR data at the practice, provincial and national level.

What are the benefits for me as a primary health care provider?

  • CPCSSN supports greater access and timely feedback to primary care practitioners about their patients, which builds a community of practitioners who share information about their practice with each other on a regular basis.
  • National surveillance is a benefit for those who belong to CPCSSN. The data gives a more comprehensive provincial picture of what is happening to a sentinel’s patients compared to other practices and jurisdictions.
  • Sentinels get periodic reports and access to sentinel research results.
  • Increased use of CPCSSN data can provide short and long-term feedback on primary care practitioners’ practice.
  • Another benefit to primary care practitioners who join CPCSSN is the potential to earn continuing professional development hours from their national professional association and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

What impact does CPCSSN have on the normal practice operations of individual sentinels?

  • One of our founding principles is to have minimal impact on sentinel time, and this is consistent with what we hear from sentinels about their experience with CPCSSN.
  • Some sentinels want to get more involved in the research process than others. Allowing physicians to make more sense of the data held in their EMRs is a benefit that inspires increased learning. This in turn benefits both patients and providers over the longer term.

What does CPCSSN do locally to support the needs of their sentinel practitioners?

  • CPCSSN practice-based research networks hold regular roundtable discussions to examine comparative EMR feedback report results.
  • Our staff can also help individual sentinels drill down on the information to optimize his or her understanding of group and individual patient care practices in a non-threatening environment. This can also earn them educational credits with their national professional association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, through the CME/CPD Mainpro+ programme.

Can I assure my patients that their personal information is safe?

  • CPCSSN is designed to ensure that patient and primary health practitioner data are secure.
  • All patient information is anonymized, which means that direct identifiers (i.e. name, health information or provincial identification number) are removed at the EMR site, before the health data is extracted for CPCSSN. It is further de-identified and coded so that the risk of re-identification from the cleaned data is low to very low.
  • CPCSSN’s regional data manager and central Information and Technology Manager will apply further de-identification software or such other steps before releasing health data to authorized researchers and research partners, so valuable learning, practice quality improvement feedback, and research to improve the health care delivered to individuals across Canada is achieved.

Will my patients have an opportunity to opt out of CPCSSN even though I am a sentinel?

  • All patients may opt out of having their health data being part of the CPCSSN database. All a patient has to do is tell their physician or designated staff person that they wish to opt out, and sign a release for all references to their data to be removed. The physician and/or her/his staff is to notify the local CPCSSN research network so that the network’s data manager can take steps to either ensure the patient’s information is never extracted. In the case where a patient is opting out after participating in CPCSSN for any period of time, the network’s data manager can take steps to see that all historical data is not extracted or moved entirely.
  • Patient brochures and posters are made available in all sentinel waiting rooms to provide patients with information about CPCSSN, as well as who to contact if she or he does not wishes to “opt-out” of CPCSSN. All CPCSSN physician and patient letters of information, posters and brochures are reviewed by the local Research Ethics Board to ensure that there is sufficient information in these materials to notify patients of their rights of opting out of CPCSSN and what steps to take.
  • In Québec, the research ethics boards overseeing both private and public clinics require each patient to receive an opt-out form as part of the information brochure that is provided. The Québec research network works with primary care clinics participating in CPCSSN to record in the patient`s record when they have received the brochure and opt-out form, and is required to provide a report to the research ethics boards as to how many brochures with opt-out forms have been distributed and how many patients have opted out.