Electronic medical records are often viewed as little more than electronic filing systems, but they are increasingly being used to research the way physicians diagnose and treat their patients, as well as patient health outcomes.
PPRNet (Practice Partner Research Network) is partnering with MUSC (the Medical University of South Carolina) for the $1.6 million, four-year grant from the National Cancer Institute.
The study is designed to examine colorectal cancer screening and treatment using a network of EMRs (electronic medical records) across 30 to 45 primary care physician practices.
The primary purpose of the grant is to help address the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, colorectal cancer. The National Cancer Institute and the AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) are interested in promoting research to improve colorectal cancer screening delivery, utilization and outcomes in primary care practices.
PPRNet, based in Charleston, S.C., was founded in 1995 as a joint effort between MUSC and EMR company Practice Partner. It is the first practice-based research network linking physicians who use electronic medical records. Currently, PPRNet has 115 physician practices representing over 500 health care providers, and almost 1 million patients located in 37 states across the country.
Asked if PPRNet continues to be the only research network linking the EMRs of physician offices, Derek Baird, marketing director of Practice Partner, said, “There have been some whisperings that some other EMR vendors have put together research networks like this. This may not be the only one, but it definitely was the first.”
The network has garnered about $4.5 million in research funding, including this project. Previously, PPRNet was engaged by AHRQ to conduct a four-year demonstration project involving over 100 practices and 78 different clinical measures. Within the next three or four months, a report on the results of this research is expected to be released.