Group health approved for PCORI research awards to study care for back pain

Published on December 28, 2012 at 7:36 AM · No Comments

Projects part of PCORI's effort to help patients make better-informed health decisions

Group Health has been approved for two research awards from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study ways to improve care for back pain and to connect patients with community resources. The projects are part of a portfolio of patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research that addresses PCORI's National Priorities for Research and Research Agenda.

Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, PCORI is an independent nonprofit dedicated to funding comparative clinical effectiveness research. In its first cycle of funding, with 25 projects approved nationwide, PCORI awarded two to Washington state, both to Group Health, a "learning health system" where research and care delivery inform each other:

Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) Senior Investigator Dan Cherkin, PhD, will lead a project on back pain, which is an extremely common condition. The project will develop and test a tool for finding out which patients are at risk for long-term back pain and which evidence-based treatments are most likely to help them based on their levels of risk. The tool will be based on one that was developed and found effective in England for tailoring treatment type and intensity to the needs of each individual patient with back pain. Many health care systems have expressed interest in using this tool in the United States, but Group Health will be the first to do so. Patients and health care providers will be involved in adapting the tool to be user-friendly-and will test and evaluate it in Group Health primary care clinics. Dr. Cherkin also directs Bastyr University Research Institute. His collaborators on this project will be Group Health Assistant Medical Director Martin Levine, MD; Research Associate Clarissa Hsu, PhD; Associate Investigator Andrea Cook, PhD; Senior Investigator Karen Sherman, PhD, MPH; and Research Associate Ben Balderson, PhD. Other significant contributors will be Group Health Director of Strategy and Business Development Sarah Greene, MPH; researchers at Keele University in England; four patients, including two from Group Health; Richard Deyo, MD, MPH, and Roger Chou, MD, MPH, both of Oregon Health & Science University. The advisory committee will include representatives from Medicare, Medicaid, Workers Compensation, Veteran Affairs, external provider networks, and industry.

GHRI Research Associate Clarissa Hsu, PhD, will lead Group Health's other PCORI-funded research project. It will focus on engaging Group Health patients to help create and test a role within primary care that will connect primary care teams with community resources such as the YMCA and support groups. Stronger clinic-community links are expected to help people get the health resources they need to manage their chronic conditions successfully over the long haul. Chronic conditions include diabetes, depression, and asthma. Dr. Hsu's collaborators will be GHRI Senior Investigator and Director of GHRI's Center for Community Health and Evaluation Allen Cheadle, PhD; Senior Investigator Paul Fishman, PhD; Associate Investigator and Group Health Medical Director for Research Translation Rob Reid, MD, PhD; and Group Health Director of Lean Improvement, Promotion, Strategic Planning, and Deployment Erika Fox. Group Health Vice President of Primary Care and Market Development Michael Erikson, MSW, and Primary Care Services Medical Director Claire Trescott, MD, will serve as consultants. The research team will also include two Group Health patients: Michele Robbins and Janice Tufte.

"Today marks a major milestone in our work as we build a portfolio of comparative clinical effectiveness research that will provide patients and those who care for them better information about the health care decisions they face," said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. "These research projects reflect PCORI's patient-centered research agenda, emphasizing the inclusion of patients and caregivers at all stages of the research."

PCORI is committing $40.7 million in funding for a slate of 25 projects, which PCORI's Board of Governors approved following a competitive, multi-stage review process involving scientists, patients, caregivers, and other stakeholders. Two of these 25 projects were awarded to Group Health.

Proposals were evaluated based on scientific merit, engagement of patients and stakeholders, methodological rigor, and fit within PCORI's National Priorities for Research and Research Agenda.

The awards were part of PCORI's first cycle of primary research funding and selected from among nearly 500 completed applications submitted earlier this year. All proposals were approved pending a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and completion of a formal award contract.

"PCORI's emergence as a major funder of health care research has the potential to lead to a transformation of health care from a largely system- and provider-centered enterprise to one that is explicitly designed to meet the needs of patients," Dr. Cherkin said.

"Group Health's extensive experience conducting comparative-effectiveness research within a consumer-driven health care organization puts us in a unique position to lead the kind of patient-centered research that suits PCORI's goals," added Dr. Cherkin's colleague Dr. Levine.

"By engaging patients in planning, reviewing, and implementing projects, PCORI is improving the culture of both research and health care," said Dr. Hsu, who is a medical anthropologist.

"These new grants represent the best of a learning health care system, where patients, researchers, clinicians, and leaders partner to make care more aligned with patients' needs and desires," Dr. Reid said.

"Group Health is very proud of the work that PCORI is funding to further our mission around an approach that is based on evidence and puts patients at the center of their care experience," said Group Health Physicians President/Chief Medical Executive Michael Soman, MD, MPH.

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