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For Albertans

Alberta Health Services’ vision is Healthy Albertans. Healthy Communities. Together. One way we can achieve this is through research and innovation. AHS is a provincewide learning organization that, with our partners, enables system transformation and quality health care through the creation, sharing and use of information.  

You and your family are the most important part of research for AHS. We want to learn from our patients and families, for our patients and families, and with our patients and families.

Research and innovation activities are embedded in everything we do. At AHS you can find us working on studies that focus on the prevention of illness and disease, testing new treatments and technologies, examining quality of life improvements, and even how changes in patient flow improve the overall health system. You can see a sampling of these successes in our Research & Innovation Stories section or our Annual Reports.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are rigorous research studies that test new ways to prevent, detect, treat or manage conditions or illnesses. These studies may examine medical products, such as drugs or devices, procedures, or changes to behavior, such as diet. These trials provide information into the effectiveness and safety of the considered ‘new’ approach before it is spread widely in medical practices.

Clinical trials are often done in phases where the results and learnings from one phase inform the design of the next phase. The four phases in studies of new medication include:

  1. Is it safe? – The first phase is used to determine if the treatment is safe when used in healthy individuals. Researchers will determine how the drug is processed by the body and if there are adverse side effects.
  2. Does it work? The second phase looks at how well the treatment works in people it is intended for. This phase also double-checks the safety and dose of the treatment.
  3. Is it better? In this phase, a new treatment is compared with the standard of care. Is the test drug better at improving the condition or or does it have fewer side effects?
  4. How does it work over the long run? During the final phase, long-term (longitudinal) studies are done to determine if this new approach should replace existing therapies. This phase also checks the long-term safety and side effects.

Completing a clinical trial often requires a large team that begins with the patient and their family and may include their health care team, scientists, industry sponsors, healthy volunteers and ethicists. Researchers and health care teams work hard to minimize any potential risks associated with clinical trials. Nevertheless, risks remain. Therefore, it is important to ask your doctor and health care team about the potential risks involved.

How do I know the research I volunteer for is done properly?

To ensure Albertans are protected and receiving the highest quality care possible, Alberta Health Services requires that all research conducted in our facilities meet strict privacy and ethics regulations.

AHS enforces the Health Information Act and the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act to make sure that any information collected, used, or disclosed meets provincial legislation. To comply with the legislation, AHS requires clinical researchers to submit plans for how they will safeguard the health information they collect.

To use AHS resources, such as our staff, equipment, or space, researchers have to obtain these approvals and address each of these areas before they may contact patients about participating in a study.

For more information on these important safeguards you can read further here:

Why get involved in a research?

Participating in a clinical trial can be a complex decision but it is always your choice whether to volunteer for a study or not. Participating in a trial may have direct benefits to you and will also help many other people you do not even know.

When you participate you may gain access to new, cutting edge treatments before they are available to the public or incorporated into standard care practices. You will also be working with leading medical experts and their teams in top facilities. Patients who participate in clinical trials may also find it personally valuable to play a more active role in their health care or find satisfaction from the knowledge they are contributing to new developments.

Your participation in research goes much further than you. The knowledge researchers gain from studies is used to establish better treatments and may contribute to changing the course of many illnesses, even curing or preventing them. By participating in research, you may help influence the health of many others, including your own family, other patients, community members, and society as a whole.

How to get involved in research?

To get involved in research, speak with someone on your care team, contact the AHS Research office at Research.Administration@ahs.ca, or check out one of the searchable databases below. Even if you are not currently a patient, you may participate in many studies as part of a healthy comparison group.

  • Alberta Cancer Clinical Trials
    The site is updated monthly with ongoing cancer clinical trials.
  • CentreWatch
    Center Watch’s Clinical Trails Listings Service provides a database of global clinical trials seeking volunteers.
  • ClinicalTrials.gov
    ClinicalTrials.gov is a service provided by the US National Institutes of Health. It provides a registry and results database of clinical studies conducted around the world.
How to get involved in a Strategic Clinical Networks?

To get the most out of our health care system, AHS has developed networks of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about specific areas of health, challenging them to find new and innovative ways of delivering care that will provide better quality, better outcomes and better value for every Albertan. The SCNs provide a number of opportunities for you to get involved in improving care of Albertans, find out more about Patient Engagement in Support of the SCNs.