Organizing the Present, Looking to the Future: An Online Knowledge Repository to Facilitate Collaboration


Background Comprehensive data available in the Canadian province of Manitoba since 1970 have aided study of the interaction between population health, health care utilization, and structural features of the health care system. Given a complex linked database and many ongoing projects, better organization of available epidemiological, institutional, and technical information was needed. Objective The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and Evaluation wished to develop a knowledge repository to handle data, document research methods, and facilitate both internal communication and collaboration with other sites. Methods This evolving knowledge repository consists of both public and internal (restricted access) pages on the World Wide Web (WWW). Information can be accessed using an indexed logical format or queried to allow entry at user-defined points. The main topics are: Concept Dictionary, Research Definitions, Meta-Index, and Glossary. The Concept Dictionary operationalizes concepts used in health research using administrative data, outlining the creation of complex variables. Research Definitions specify the codes for common surgical procedures, tests, and diagnoses. The Meta-Index organizes concepts and definitions according to the Medical Sub-Heading (MeSH) system developed by the National Library of Medicine. The Glossary facilitates navigation through the research terms and abbreviations in the knowledge repository. An Education Resources heading presents a web-based graduate course using substantial amounts of material in the Concept Dictionary, a lecture in the Epidemiology Supercourse, and material for Manitoba’s Regional Health Authorities. Confidential information (including Data Dictionaries) is available on the Centre’s internal website. Results Use of the public pages has increased dramatically since January 1998, with almost 6,000 page hits from 250 different hosts in May 1999. More recently, the number of page hits has averaged around 4,000 per month, while the number of unique hosts has climbed to around 400. Conclusions This knowledge repository promotes standardization and increases efficiency by placing concepts and associated programming in the Centre’s collective memory. Collaboration and project management are facilitated.