Five years of major projects at CHU Sainte-Justine

innovation and cutting-edge technology at the service of patients and their well-being

CHU Sainte-Justine is home to a wide range of major MUSCO projects. Each has its own specific objective, but they all share a common goal:

to improve the trajectory and quality of life of the patients. Some of these projects will have left the Initiative’s portfolio in June 2023, but others have been authorized by the Executive Committee to continue over the coming months, or even until the end of the Initiative, giving the teams time to finalize the latest advances. Some projects require cutting-edge expertise, which can be quite a challenge given the ongoing shortage of manpower and recruitment difficulties.

The fact that CHU Sainte-Justine’s major projects have been able to continue to develop in spite of this context, and in particular under the banner of innovation and networking between research and the clinic, is largely due to the expertise and collaborative spirit of the teams on site. 

Improving care for families

Some of the major MUSCO projects developed at CHU Sainte-Justine aim to make it easier for families to transmit information remotely, through the development of digital tools. This is the case of the AMIKO Application project, which is considered a real pilot project within the establishment, and which could be transposed to other departments or even other centers. Developed in collaboration with members of the orthopedics department’s clinical team and the information technology department, this innovative project aims to make it easier for families to complete quality of life forms. 

Since it went live in September 2020, families have been able to transmit this information digitally and complete it at a time that suits them best, ahead of their appointment with the professionals. They can take the time to formulate their response appropriately, which informs the professionals more effectively and enables the nursing staff to have a better understanding of the evolution of the patient’s condition and to provide more appropriate therapeutic responses. Over the last year, from July 2022 to July 2023, almost 3,000 patients completed questionnaires via the AMIKO application. This information is deposited directly in the patient’s clinical record following completion of the questionnaires.

The AMIKO platform has also been nominated for the CHU Sainte-Justine Gala Reconnaissance 2022, a touching mark of gratitude to the teams and recognition of the impact of the collaboration and multidisciplinary approach that has been at the heart of the work carried out by this working group. 

Optimizing data collection for the benefit of patients

The aim of the Orthopaedic Database project was to centralize patient data to enable better monitoring and care, while facilitating research projects to help strengthen this care. Teams at CHU Sainte-Justine had been using a scoliosis database for almost 15 years. The idea was to extend this database to the orthopedic field, by implementing a new software program, Centro, to enable broader data collection. The result was an expanded database. At the same time, discussions were initiated between CHU Sainte-Justine and Shriners Hospitals for Children – Canada (Shriners), to explore the possibility of linking their different databases, with a view to further expanding the observed pool and strengthening the impact on families. 

Teams from both establishments met to discuss their respective matrices, collection methodologies and clinical protocols. The project was one of several completed within the Initiative in June 2023, and while discussions to develop a joint clinical research project to promote the tie-up envisaged were not successful, discussions remain open to explore this avenue.

Combining clinical and research activities for the well-being of patients

Within the research unit attached to the CHU Sainte-Justine orthopedic clinic (URCO), teams work both clinically with patients and in orthopedic research, which is what makes this unit unique. Research assistants gather information to gain a full picture of the conditions of patients attending the clinic, and can measure the impact of the care they receive. Ultimately, the work carried out by this team contributes to improving and developing new clinical protocols to better meet families’ needs. In particular, these assistants are actively involved in recruiting families for research projects, collaborating on protocols to be developed and thus helping to improve the care trajectory. 

At the same time, the team has also been involved in the development of the AMIKO Application project on quality of life questionnaires, and the Database project to build a possible avenue of collaboration with the Shriners. MUSCO’s contribution stopped this year to support the work undertaken by this team, but operating costs will continue to be covered and will now be provided by various funding sources, such as the Institut TransMedTech or research funds. Over the life of the Initiative, the team will have been able to develop over 40 orthopaedic projects, set up more than 20 new protocols and implement five new treatments…advances made possible thanks to the dedication and strengthened expertise of the research assistants. 

Another project combining research and clinical expertise is still under development: that of recruiting a clinician scientist in orthopaedics. The initial aim of this project was to ensure the succession of a clinician scientist in spinal disorders on the eve of his retirement. These are key positions that play a fundamental role in healthcare innovation, thanks to their integrated activities: they contribute to both research and the clinical application of the resulting knowledge. This accelerates the transfer of research results to patients. The aim was to guarantee the maintenance of this expertise through the existence and nature of this strategic position, in collaboration with the academic world. However, discussions are currently underway regarding a possible reorientation of the project – stay tuned to our next newsletters for further developments!

Advanced investigative equipment for better diagnosis

Maximizing CHU Sainte-Justine’s expertise and equipment was the ambition expressed for the Biomechanical Evaluation of Lower Limbs project when it was proposed to the Executive Committee in 2022. The intention was also to strengthen the links between CHU Sainte-Justine and Marie Enfant for this approach. Both establishments have cutting-edge equipment, and the aim was to jointly exploit to its full potential a new knee biomechanics measuring device that is known to be effective in adults and promising for young patients.

The aim was to recruit a rehabilitation technologist, who took up his post in January 2023, to carry out clinical examinations using this new device and to provide leadership for research projects. This recruitment has already enabled over 75 examinations to be carried out, and the project will continue until the end of the Initiative for the full use of the amount allocated to the project.

Immerse yourself in an immersive environment to better prepare for surgery

In addition to recruiting resources, the Initiative has also enabled a number of improvements to be made to modernize the orthopedic clinic and welcome patients in the best possible conditions. Several works have been completed, but there is still one area to be developed before MUSCO comes to an end. This is a recently proposed project to create a multimodal, playful and immersive environment within the clinic, offering patients the chance to better prepare for the approach to surgery. Collaboration with certain Technopôle teams could enable the project to benefit from the expertise of certain professionals with experience in virtual reality.

The installation will enable patients to project themselves into different situations and spaces, so that they can experience in advance the various stages of their forthcoming surgery. The aim of the project is to reduce patient stress, thereby reducing the risk of complications and length of hospital stay. In order to bring this project to fruition, keep pace with rapidly evolving technologies and obtain the most cost-effective equipment, an extension has been granted for the next few months.

What about the future? 

All in all, the five years of major projects at CHU Sainte-Justine have seen a number of advances, on many levels: in terms of strengthening expertise, acquiring cutting-edge equipment and implementing new tools and protocols. These advances would not have been possible without the expertise and collaborative strength of the teams who, in the field, have been able to share their knowledge and think bigger for the benefit of patients. 

It’s a safe bet that the commitment of these teams will propel these projects even further in the future, whether they are completed within the Initiative or continue with the CHU Sainte-Justine.

Photo Credits: CHU Sainte-Justine and Marie-Lyne Nault