The Jewish General Hospital’s new Physician-in-Chief wants to ensure doctors play a key positive role as new ways of delivering care are introduced.

Dr. Vicky Tagalakis was named the Chief of the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) Department of Medicine in July of last year, a role more commonly referred to as Physician-in-Chief.

In this key leadership role, she oversees the activities of 21 hospital divisions and almost 180 full-time physician staff. Dr. Tagalakis sees one of her roles as helping the hospital fulfill its mission to develop new ways of delivering “Care Everywhere.” The Care Everywhere initiative emphasizes the delivery of the right care at the right time in whichever location is most appropriate, safest and most convenient.

“As Physician-in-Chief, I hope to work with physicians to harness our collective expertise and contribute valuable input, ensuring the best care possible for our patients,” Dr. Tagalakis said. “Physicians are at the forefront of clinical care, medical research and education, and quality care improvement initiatives, so we have a vital role in designing and implementing patient care delivery and flow through our hospital system.”

The pace of change has accelerated since the pandemic. “COVID thrust us into doing things in different ways and thinking about new ways to deliver care, such as using virtual platforms,” Dr. Tagalakis said. “The JGH Foundation has been very important in providing support to allow us to enhance both patient care and physician training.”

She sees her role as a facilitator with the physicians as a whole to meet patient needs. “It’s exciting,” she adds. “I can see all the possibilities.”

One of those possibilities is developing and implementing the technology that is vital to advancing the quality of care and where and how it is provided.

Connected Health Record will enhance patient care

An important element, Dr. Tagalakis said, is the development of a Connected Health Record (CHR) for patients, an effort led by Dr. Justin Cross, Chief Digital Health Officer of the JGH’s healthcare network. The CHR was made possible thanks to the support of the JGH Foundation. It has launched its first module that makes a patient’s complete timeline available electronically, meaning when they were cared for in any of the JGH departments or other facilities in the healthcare network. The next step, coming soon, will be to include further data about each patient, including diagnoses, medication records and imaging and lab results.

Having this information readily at hand will greatly facilitate the work of medical staff and also help patients, who will not have to repeat medical histories in different facilities or departments and can rest assured that all care received is consistent.

Dr. Tagalakis is also excited about this new technology because, besides improving patient care, it enables research and access to anonymous data. This data can be used to study and better understand what works best for treating various medical conditions in different circumstances. This is of particular interest to her in her professional work as a thrombosis medical specialist. Thromboses, or blood clots, are major medical issues that can be caused by different complex factors. If not found and treated promptly, they can travel to crucial areas of the body and cause critical blood blockages that can be fatal.

Dr. Tagalakis is a prominent researcher in this field, using administrative databases of health records to determine what combinations of factors are likely to cause blood clots in patients and which methods of prevention and treatment are most effective. “The more detailed data we will collect with our new technology will greatly help this research,” Dr. Tagalakis said. “Traditional clinical trials of treatments exclude many types of patients, including the elderly and complex cases. Our new comprehensive data will give us a much better picture of what is effective to prevent and treat blood clots in all types of patients.”

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Thrombosis and Anticoagulation Care (CETAC)

Dr. Tagalakis is proud of the work being done by the JGH’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Thrombosis and Anticoagulation Care (CETAC), which was greatly expanded in 2018 thanks in part to funding from the JGH Foundation. The Jim Pattison CETAC is headed by Dr. Susan Kahn and is unique in Quebec for its pioneering work and development of new prevention and care protocols for patients with and at risk for blood clots. It was drawn upon as a centre of expertise when the issue of blood clots in people with COVID-19 arose early in the pandemic and took part in important international research into this additional COVID related threat.

Looking forward in healthcare

Dr. Tagalakis is the first woman to hold the position of Physician-in-Chief at the JGH and hopes her appointment will be empowering to other women seeking leadership roles. “Equity, diversity and inclusion are very important at the JGH and show the institution’s progressive stance,” she said. “I want to inspire other women physicians through this very positive part of my career.”

Dr. Tagalakis is also positive about the future of healthcare. “It’s the institution and the people that work at the JGH that drive me to meet the challenges ahead,” she said. “We navigated through the pandemic and now have other challenges to face. We need to think outside the box. We are using new technology and have a commitment to be forward-looking. We can think of different ways to frame problems.” In this regard, she is hopeful of the valuable input from young physician recruits in her department who bring firsthand experience with innovation by way of their medical training.

Dr. Tagalakis also draws motivation from what she sees happening at the hospital. “The JGH and the JGH Foundation are thinking in new ways, and that’s exciting,” she said. “It’s very innovative to bring care to the patient wherever they are.”

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