Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) could provide “real-world” answers to health care treatment questions, but researchers must first address a variety of evidence, regulatory and communications barriers, writes NPC Chief Science Officer Dr. Robert Dubois in his latest column for the Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research.
Dr. Dubois explains that “PBRNs typically consist of primary care clinicians in routine practice who also conduct studies on the patient populations that they serve. These networks have the patients and infrastructure to conduct pragmatic clinical trials, collect data for prospective registries, or house information for retrospective analyses.”
He points out that PBRNs have several benefits. They can:
- help to identify the most pressing, practical, and real-world questions that traditional randomized controlled trials may not address;
- provide an opportunity to more fully explore heterogeneity, or individual treatment effects, where the average response may not apply to an individual patient; and
- enable more compelling evidence to be efficiently amassed.
“To succeed and have a practical and sustainable infrastructure, we need carefully selected and practically relevant research questions, compelling evidence from multiple studies, broad acceptance of PBRNs by the payer and clinical communities, regulatory clarification, and clear guidance on communication of evidence from these sources. Without clarity around these issues, the promise of PBRNs and the requested information from our above patient might remain unfulfilled,” Dr. Dubois concludes.