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J Am Board Fam Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;25(5):577-81. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2012.05.110302.

Coordinating centers and multi-practice-based research network (PBRN) research.

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Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA.


Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) have emerged as laboratories in which to address important primary care challenges. In 2011, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's PBRN database included more than 130 networks, most regional and some national, with member practices in every state. Regional networks may have certain advantages over national networks with respect to practice recruitment and project quality control because of closer relationships and shorter distances. However, national networks often can achieve larger numbers of practices with greater diversity, resulting in broader generalizability of results. Increasingly, regional networks are collaborating on multinetwork projects, but this creates significant study coordination challenges. A potential solution is to incorporate PBRN coordinating centers similar to those used in many National Institutes of Health and industry-sponsored multi-center clinical trials. In this article, we discuss the potential functions of a coordinating center in multi-region PBRN studies based on our experience with 2 recent studies.

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