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Electronic data collection can greatly improve recruitment of primary care patients into clinical trials

It is difficult for busy primary care doctors in practice-based research networks (PBRNs) to identify patients who are eligible for a research protocol. This may be one reason that only 3 percent of cancer patients being cared for by community oncologists are entered into clinical trials. However, electronic data collection can greatly facilitate PBRN research, particularly by improving data management and identification of eligible patients, concludes a study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11226).

Researchers used a review of research studies on the topic, discussions with PBRN researchers, and personal research experience to outline principles to apply when considering electronic data collection in a PBRN. They give working examples of electronic means they used to improve data collection and patient enrollment at their Indiana PBRN.

The PBRN screened more than 18,000 patients and enrolled more than 6,000 study subjects in 5 years.The research assistants missed less than 2 percent of potentially eligible patients. The clinicians achieved this success through extensive integration of the ResNet infrastructure (research databases and personnel) with an electronic medical record system and computerized provider order entry. They also made extensive use of widely used standards for data storage, definition, and transmission to ensure data reusability. They also successfully implemented a real-time means to identify followup patients.

See "Information technology in PBRNs: The Indiana University Medical Group Research Network (IUMG ResNet) experience," by Abel Kho, M.D., M.S., Atif Zafar, M.D., and William Tierney, M.D., in the March 2007 Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 20, pp. 196-203.

Editor's Note: Another AHRQ-supported study (HS13557 and HS14850) demonstrates how strategic adoption of health information technology led to the re-engineering of practices and subsequent improvements in delivery of evidence-based preventive services in a PBRN. For more details, see: Nagykaldi, Z. and Mold, J.W. (2007, March). "The role of health information technology in the translation of research into practice: An Oklahoma physicians resource/research network (OKPRN) study." Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 20, pp. 188-195.

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