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June 19, 2013

PCORI Funding Announcement – Clinical Data and Patient Powered Research Networks

In late April of this year, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) announced two new funding opportunities totaling $68 million to conduct patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) via the development of a National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (NPCCRN). 

One of the bigger pieces of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was the idea to lower healthcare costs through CER.  To achieve this goal, PPACA (Section 6301 and Section 10602, Public Law 111-148), created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), an independent, non-profit health research organization.  PCORI will have an estimated $3 billion over the next decade to fund CER.  

PCORI was created to conduct research to provide information about the best available evidence to help patients and their health care providers make more informed decisions.  PCORI's research is intended to give patients a better understanding of the prevention, treatment and care options available, and the science that supports those options.  Below is a short summary of some of the revisions made by the PCORI Board.

The announcements fall under one of PCORI's five National Priorities for Research, "Accelerating Patient-Centered and Methodological Research," and aim to improve the nation's capacity to efficiently conduct CER.

The NPCCRN will serve as a large, highly representative, national patient centered clinical research network for conducting clinical outcomes research.  As stated in the notice, the program will promote a more comprehensive, complete, longitudinal data infrastructure; broader participation of patients, clinicians, health systems, and payers in the research process; and improvements in analytic methods for both observational  and experimental CER.

A major component of this network are Clinical Data Research Networks (CDRNs), or system based networks (such as hospital systems) that have the potential to become an ideal electronic network, without structural impediments, and Patient Powered Research Networks (PPRNs), which are groups of patients interested in forming a research network and in participating in research. 

PCORI will fund up to $56 million to support up to eight new or existing CDRNs that will develop the capacity to conduct randomized comparative effectiveness studies using data from clinical practice in large, defined populations. PCORI also will fund up to $12 million to support up to 18 new or existing PPRNs and their progression toward a reusable, scalable, and sustainable research network.

Required letters of intent (LOI) from applicants are due June 19 and complete applications are due September 27. PCORi's Online System opened on May 15th and PCORi will be hosting a Pre-LOI Informational Webinar on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 3:00PM (EST). Awards will be announced in December 2013.

 "We see this initiative, unlike many past efforts, as an opportunity to bring together the many sectors within healthcare that can be both sources and users of the types of rich clinical data that, if carefully and appropriately gathered and used, can significantly advance patient-centered CER," said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH


Clinical Data Research Networks (CDRNs)

Through this funding announcement, PCORI seeks to support new or existing CDRNs that will develop the capacity to conduct randomized comparative effectiveness studies using data from clinical practice in a large, defined population (at least one million people by the end of Phase One for conditions other than rare diseases). PCORI has defined the characteristics of an ideal CDRN to include the following:

  1. Coverage of large, diverse, defined populations unselected for a particular disease, condition, or procedure; ability to capture complete clinical information on this population over time, including longitudinal information on clinical care, changes in clinical characteristics and conditions, and the occurrence of clinical care or outcomes, within or outside the system.


  1. Involvement of multiple (two or more) health systems, with data interoperability and data standardization to allow efficient, valid sharing of individual or aggregate data across systems for purposes of data analysis.
  1. The ability to efficiently contact patients for the purposes of efficient recruitment; collecting patient-reported information; and maintaining consistently high levels of participation in research studies, including sustained randomization, participation, and follow-up over time.
  1. Demonstrated ability to engage substantial patient populations with selected conditions, both within and outside their systems, for purposes of generating research questions, participating in network governance, or in appropriate research studies.
  1. Involvement of the healthcare system leadership in governance and use of the network to enhance network efficiency, utility, and sustainability.
  1. Willingness to serve as a national data infrastructure resource for the conduct of CER by researchers outside the network.
  1. Capacity to support large-scale comparative effectiveness trials, as well as observational studies of multiple research questions, including prevention and treatment, at low marginal cost, with substantive patient involvement throughout, including formulation of research questions and essential study characteristics, study participation, and dissemination of study findings.
  1. Capacity to embed research activity within functioning healthcare systems without disrupting the business of providing health care; alignment of human subjects oversight, IRB review and approval, and informed consent procedures with the level of risk in proposed comparative effectiveness studies, including plans to obtain buy-in from all organizations to accept review of specific projects under auspices of a central IRB.
  1. Clear, proven policies to maintain data security, patient privacy, and confidentiality; ability to collect, store, retrieve, process, or ship biological specimens for research purposes, with appropriate consent, for use by qualified researchers.
  1. Ability to streamline subcontracting processes for research involving multiple sites.

Patient Powered Research Networks (PPRNs)

Through this funding announcement, PCORI seeks to support new or existing PPRN's that are comprised of patients and/or caregivers who are motivated to build an ideal network and play an active role in patient-centered comparative effectiveness research (CER). PCORI has defined the characteristics of an ideal PPRN as comprised of a patient community or group that:

  • Is comprised of patients linked by a common condition, may also include interested caregivers or clinicians, and is enthusiastic about participating in patient-centered outcomes research, including the potential to contribute research ideas, share data, adhere to protocols, and participate in observational studies and randomized clinical trials;
  • Is interested in and willing to increase the quantity and quality of information collected from patients that is suitable for research from an activated patient community of at least 50,000 patients (less for patients with rare disorders);
  • Has a governance structure and operating policies that ensure patient control, that can establish relationships with qualified researchers and that can generate research questions from the community's membership and accumulate relevant clinical and patient-reported outcomes data from a high proportion (at least 80%) of the membership;
  • Has strategies to enhance and report the diversity and the representativeness of the patient community as it expands;
  • Is interested in being actively involved in planning and conducting dissemination of research findings to patients and providers;
  • Is willing to explore novel and efficient approaches for patient members to contribute their electronic clinical data to the PPRN. For example, patients could share their own data directly (obtained by providers and hospitals through the View, Download, Transmit (VDT) requirements on Meaningful Use or the Blue Button functions offered by health plans and other data holders) or ask the health care delivery sites they use to provide the data;
  • Is willing to explore novel and efficient approaches for patient members to collect self-reported data, including use of remote monitoring devices, mobile apps, and self-reported observations of daily living;
  • Is willing to participate in a program-wide Steering Committee that aims to share insights and approaches across the funded projects, with the aim of converging on a standards-based, inter-operable approach to building patient-powered networks and, in a subsequent funding cycle, merging them with clinical research data networks

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