A model for the electronic support of practice-based research networks.
Peterson KA., Delaney BC., Arvanitis TN., Taweel A., Sandberg EA., Speedie S., Richard Hobbs FD.
PURPOSE: The principal goal of the electronic Primary Care Research Network (ePCRN) is to enable the development of an electronic infrastructure to support clinical research activities in primary care practice-based research networks (PBRNs). We describe the model that the ePCRN developed to enhance the growth and to expand the reach of PBRN research. METHODS: Use cases and activity diagrams were developed from interviews with key informants from 11 PBRNs from the United States and United Kingdom. Discrete functions were identified and aggregated into logical components. Interaction diagrams were created, and an overall composite diagram was constructed describing the proposed software behavior. Software for each component was written and aggregated, and the resulting prototype application was pilot tested for feasibility. A practical model was then created by separating application activities into distinct software packages based on existing PBRN business rules, hardware requirements, network requirements, and security concerns. RESULTS: We present an information architecture that provides for essential interactions, activities, data flows, and structural elements necessary for providing support for PBRN translational research activities. The model describes research information exchange between investigators and clusters of independent data sites supported by a contracted research director. The model was designed to support recruitment for clinical trials, collection of aggregated anonymous data, and retrieval of identifiable data from previously consented patients across hundreds of practices. CONCLUSIONS: The proposed model advances our understanding of the fundamental roles and activities of PBRNs and defines the information exchange commonly used by PBRNs to successfully engage community health care clinicians in translational research activities. By describing the network architecture in a language familiar to that used by software developers, the model provides an important foundation for the development of electronic support for essential PBRN research activities.