Five Things to Know About Getting Involved in Clinical Research

Nationally, a major effort is underway to reduce the time it takes to move research results from bench to bedside, and office-based physicians can play an important role in the process. Here are 5 things to know about clinical research opportunities for office-based physicians.

1  There are multiple organizations involved in the effort to harness the health information stored in research. Organizations and programs like the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the NIH Collaboratory, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) initiative, as well as clinical trial centers at academic health centers, are focusing on bringing more practical, tested treatment approaches to patients.

Physicians can choose the level of their involvement. “There are opportunities for you and your patients that can be scaled to your resources,” says Robert J. Mentz, MD, director of the Duke University Cooperative Cardiovascular Society (DUCCS) and a member of the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). If you have an idea for a project but don’t want to get involved in the research, you can submit a research question through the PCORI website.

3  Electronic health records (EHRs) can make it easier for physicians to pull data from their patient population or identify patients who may be candidates for certain clinical trials. PCORnet, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, is a nationwide effort to harness the health information stored in in EHRs. For example, the PCORnet ADAPTABLE trial is studying optimal aspirin dosing by collecting information through EHRs.

4  A total of 171 PBRNs in the United States link clinicians with researchers to conduct studies that can improve primary care. The AHRQ website contains resources (including a national registry) that clinicians can use to identify research opportunities. Joining a PBRN is free, and each PBRN has a different focus, explains David Meyers, MD, AHRQ’s chief medical officer. He suggests that interested physicians visit the websites of PBRNs in their region and speak to the network director or attend an annual meeting to learn more.

5  Most academic health centers have clinical research institutes that coordinate clinical research efforts and can connect physicians with opportunities. For example, the DCRI offers information, education, and training on clinical trials. Other groups such as DUCCS notify members of clinical research opportunities. Most divisions in the Department of Medicine at Duke also maintain lists of clinical research opportunities in various specialties.