UPDATED: Richmond Hospital takes major leap into medical research

Dr. Scott Garrison was appointed medical director for research for Vancouver Coastal Health-Richmond. -
Dr. Scott Garrison was appointed medical director for research for Vancouver Coastal Health-Richmond.
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The first phase of medical research at Richmond Hospital will begin with a focus on the frail elderly and the long-term impact multiple medications have on them.

Dr. Scott Garrison, who was recently appointed medical director for research for Vancouver Coastal Health-Richmond, is wondering whether reducing the number of medications that seniors take will ultimately result in healthier people and an improved quality of life.

“Nobody in the world had has done a trial like that in a community population,” Garrison said Monday.

A similar trial at a nursing home in Israel resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in mortality, he said.

Last week’s announcement that Garrison will head up medical research at Richmond Hospital, means the local community hospital is the first in B.C. to focus on research.

Garrison said he’ll be dedicating half his time to research and grant applications, the remainder on the family practice he has maintained in the city for more than 15 years.

Another study he hopes to lead in Richmond is whether increased physical and mental stimulation among patients while in hospital is beneficial.

“For the elderly, a hospital is a good place to be sick, but a bad place to get well,” Garrison said.

While hospitals are very good for saving your life, Garrison said no hospitals are geared toward patients and keeping them physically and mentally active while in hospital.

So what he envisions is enlisting Richmond’s strong volunteer community, along with the family of patients, in a program that keys on keeping patients fit and stimulated while in hospital.

During hospital stays, recovering elderly patients are often prescribed plenty of bed rest, but that translates into individuals who upon their release from hospital are often too weak to live independently.

Garrison said he’s just putting the finishing touches on a grant application, seeking funding that will pay for research assistants to look at the issue of the elderly and pharmaceuticals.

Natalie Meixner, president of the Richmond Hospital Foundation, said she’s excited about the partnership with the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute which will fund Garrison’s research.

Meixner said there’s lots of other research that doctors in hospitals could be conducting that can translate into benefits for patients at home.

The new research mandate at Richmond Hospital means local donors have the opportunity to support research that stands to have a meaningful impact on the way healthcare is delivered at the hospital.

“We are really excited about this partnership and being able to open the doors to our donors.”

Research of this type has the potential to impact thousands of lives, Meixner said.

In her brief time at the helm of the hospital foundation, Meixner said she’s been impressed by the “culture of innovation” at the hospital, and the “culture of people working collaboratively.”

Meixner said hiring a medical research director was the idea of Richmond Hospital’s CEO, Susan Wannamaker.

The exciting thing, Richmond Hospital Foundation director of marketing and communications Chad Pederson said, is that the focus is on practice-based research, leading to results which can be directly applicable to the provision of care and service in the community.

Garrison will be leading efforts to study what’s known as polypharmacy reduction, also known as deprescribing.

The research will look at patients who receive multiple medications, and will attempt to determine whether better outcomes can be reached with fewer prescriptions.

Garrison will promote Richmond as a centre of clinical research in the Lower Mainland, and will encourage other research projects at the hospital.

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