We spoke with Bianca Blanch who won the Emerging Researcher Best Abstract prize at our 2015 conference. Her slides are available here:"Potential pitfalls in defining prescription opioid misuse using routinely collected dispensing data:’Doctor shopping’ or standard care?"
How did you get started in HSR? I wanted to change my career path and serendipitously fell into pharmacoepi and analysing big data which I find fascinating.
What was the first project you worked on and where? In health services research it was a systematic review exploring resource utilization and costs at the end of life for cancer patients using routinely collected health data. It gave me some great insights into the capacity of routine data collections to inform health policy issues.
What are some of the key projects you are currently working on? Currently I am focused on completing my PhD exploring prescription medicine use, with a particular focus on access patterns that are potentially harmful. This includes a project that I have conducted in Australia and British Columbia comparing opioid and statin access patterns. I am also collaborating on a number of projects with researchers from National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales to explore the patient and clinical factors associated with increasing opioid access patterns.
Tell us about the research for which you won Best Abstract by an Early Career Researcher? The research I presented at the conference questions current definitions of prescription opioid misuse based on dispensing claims. ‘Doctor shopping’ (visiting multiple prescribers to obtain large quantities of prescription drugs) is the most common proxy used to identify and to quantify opioid misuse in pharmaceutical claims. Access patterns are commonly dichotomised with a threshold applied to delineate use from misuse; however there is no agreement about what this threshold should be. Using the most common threshold in the literature, we found, 7% of persons visited ≥4 opioid prescribers, but persons with a history of anti-cancer treatment were over-represented in this group; demonstrating visiting multiple prescribers may be part of routine medicine access and/or is related to complex medical condition(s).
Career highlights so far? In addition to the award above I won ‘Editor’s pick’ from the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 2014. Working with Prof Sallie-Anne Pearson has been highly rewarding as she has been an amazing role model and mentor. Finally, I have loved travelling to conferences to discuss my projects and ideas with equally passionate researchers.
What’s next for you in your career? What are you looking forward to? Next step in my career is completing my PhD. After the PhD I will remain in health research and
I was excited at the HSRAANZ conference to see the many paths available in this field.
Do you have a mentor or is there an individual who has had an important impact on your career so far? How have they been important? I have been extremely fortunate in my career working with the Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmaceutical Policy Research Group as I have learnt from a lot of gifted researchers and collaborators. My mentor is Prof Sallie-Anne Pearson who has taught me so much about big data research and having fun whilst producing high quality work.
What was your motivation for becoming involved with the HSRAANZ? I want to keep up to date with current research in the field. I am fascinated by health research and understanding current policies, methods and findings. I also want to learn more about big data and data linkage which I think is a powerful tool to understand more about the health care system and answer important clinical questions.
What do you see as the most important goal or greatest challenge for the Association over the next few years? In the mission statement, one goal is ‘to promote the education and development of researchers working in health services research’.
In line with this goal and using big data, a challenge is to attract and train inquisitive minds to analyse big datasets to explore relevant health research and clinical questions that will impact on health policy.
What do you think is the best way of having an influence on policy? Engage key stakeholders to ask relevant and specific clinical questions that directly translate to the real world and have clear policy implications.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the HSR?
Work hard and don’t be afraid of failure or being wrong – I have learnt a lot and grown considerably because of my “failures”.