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Ontario Medical Review
Nov. 2, 2020
Ontario Medical Association
Karen Lee, MLS; Sue Beazley, MI; Pat Buczkowski; Brett Williams, MLIS;  Kathleen Clements, MBA; Jasmin Kantarevic, PhD OMA Economics, Policy & Research

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

OMA Research Group

Supporting physician well-being and advancing physicians’ role as leaders in health system transformation

This inaugural edition of Spotlight will showcase the work of the ERA Research Group.

What does research mean at the OMA? More importantly, how is research used to support Ontario’s doctors? This is one of the many areas that will be explored in a new series of OMR “Spotlight” articles highlighting the ongoing work of the five teams – Analytics; Economics and Survey Insights; Healthcare Evaluative Research; Research Group; and Tariff – that make up the OMA Economics, Research & Analytics (ERA) unit.

As one of three units within the OMA Economics, Policy & Research Department (other units are Health Policy & Promotion, and Change Management & Implementation), ERA applies its teams’ extensive subject matter expertise, experience and analytical capabilities to over 20 terabytes of integrated claim and clinical data in order to:

  • support physician well-being
  • advance the role of physicians as leaders in transforming Ontario’s health care system

ERA Research Group: The Scan Artists

Who We Are

The Research Group is a team of information professionals with expertise in environmental scanning,i scholarly and grey literatureii research, and information science.

What We Do

The Research Group supports all OMA departments in their service to the membership, committees and working groups on a variety of initiatives, and toward their fulfilment of the OMA’s strategic objectives. Examples include research to support negotiations, policy development, and health system transformation.


The Research function provides timely and quality information to staff engaged in initiatives affecting members. Most recently, the Group has provided research support for several projects across the OMA, including:

  • COVID-19
  • Negotiations
  • Burnout
  • Cannabis
  • Vaccine Hesitancy
  • Primary Care
  • OHIP Oversight / Bill 138 (2019)
  • Relativity
  • Physician Human Resources

Environmental Scanning

The Environmental Scanning function uses a specialized in-house infrastructure to identify key emerging issues that affect the interests of the OMA membership, and keep staff informed of current events, recent health care research and analyses, and new information from government and health care stakeholders. The Research Group produces a product called The Scan, which is delivered to staff each morning. The group also monitors debates in the Ontario Legislature through its Hansard and bill monitoring service.iii, 1

Research Tools

The team also creates unique research tools for OMA staff in response to information needs. These customized research tools are founded on the Research Group’s environmental scanning and research work, using an integrated approach. The core elements of their work (see Figure 1) reinforce one another, thereby enhancing the overall knowledge capacity and efficiency of the team in responding to research requests.

Figure 1. OMA Research Group Approach to Research

Rapid Information Management During COVID-19

COVID-19 Clinical Research Guide

Description: The COVID-19 Clinical Research Guide2 is an online collection of clinical COVID-19 resources from key health care organizations around the world. Members seeking COVID-19 resources can use the Guide to quickly identify organizations that have produced COVID-19 evidence summaries, article synopses, recommended reading, guidance and resource guides. The Guide also features links to vaccine and clinical trial websites, modelling and projections information, statistics and mapping resources, and research tools, conveniently located in one centralized resource.

Preview: Figure 2 shows a special feature of the Guide that allows for quick identification of the types of resources produced by authoritative health care organizations.

Where to Find: The COVID-19 Clinical Research Guide was noted in OMA Member Alerts sent on April 15, 20203 and June 15, 2020.4

Figure 2. Summary of COVID-19 Resources - Research Organizations

Government Communications Collection

Description: The COVID-19 Government Communications Collection5 brings government COVID-19 communications in the public domain together in an organized fashion in one centralized resource. This unique collection includes all versions of COVID-19-related government directives and guidance documents from multiple ministries, and thus captures how these documents change over time.

As of October 6, the Collection had over 930 records dating back to January 10, 2020. A screen image of the Collection appears in Figure 3.

The Collection is valuable to members and researchers interested in health policy because it shows how government COVID-19 directives, policies and other communications have changed over time, and offers a way to understand how these changes have influenced government measures and infection control guidance. For example, a search in the Collection for “case definition” will show multiple versions dating back to January 23, 2020, demonstrating how the case definition of COVID-19 has evolved over time.

Where to Find: The COVID-19 Government Communications Collection was noted in an OMA Member Alert sent on June 15, 2020.4

Figure 3. COVID-19 Ontario Government Communications Collection

Making the Connections: Applying Bibliographic Mapping to Physician Issues

Bibliographic Mapping

Bibliographic mapping is an example of innovative use of technology to support OMA research needs that makes it easier to identify clusters of related research. The tool is based on the idea that if you know of a good article, you would be interested in who cited the work, and subsequently, work that cited the work. A timely analogy would be to think of the good article as the super-spreader, and the bibliographic mapping technique as the contact tracing. See Williams, 2020.6

Figure 4 presents an example of a bibliographic map showing 169 incoming citations to an article from 2001 about depression and burnout among medical students and young physicians. These techniques allow the Research Group to extend the reach and situational awareness of teams across the OMA in unique and sophisticated ways. This approach leverages technology to speed up research that would take weeks by other means.

Figure 4. Bibliographic Map of Incoming Citations to an Article about Depression and Burnout

Final Thoughts 

This Spotlight presents a snapshot of the OMA Research Group’s work to inform the Association as it supports the priorities and needs of Ontario’s physicians. In response to the ever-changing information landscape, the Research Group is constantly evolving and leveraging new technologies to support its research and environmental scanning work. The Group looks forward to continuing its commitment to support OMA staff in serving the membership. Questions or comments may be directed to


  1. An environmental scan involves defining, gathering, and distributing strategic public information about products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of the environment needed to support decision-making.
  2. Grey Literature comprises “…information produced on all levels of government, academia, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing, i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body.”
  3. The Research Group monitors the Ontario Legislative Assembly for health-related debates known as Hansard. The Hansard transcript is the official record of House debates. The team also follows the development of bills from introduction to Royal Assent.


  1. Status of Selected Legislation.
  2. COVID-19 Clinical Research.
  3. Ontario Medical Association. Member Alert COVID-19 (April 15, 2020) [Internet]. Toronto, ON: Ontario Medical Association. [about 10 screens]. Accessed: 2020 Sep 7.
  4. Ontario Medical Association. Member Alert COVID-19 (June 15, 2020) [Internet]. Toronto, ON: Ontario Medical Association. [about four screens]. Accessed: 2020 Sep 7.
  5. COVID-19 Ontario Government Communications Collection. 
  6. Williams B. Dimensions & VOSViewer bibliometrics in the reference interview. Code4Lib Journal [Internet]. 2020 Feb 17;47. Accessed: 2020 Sep 7.