Clinical Research Network Leverages Big Data Across Wisconsin and Midwest
Madison, Wisconsin - A swell of medical information will soon be at the fingertips of researchers across the Midwest as three of Wisconsin’s major academic health systems work together in a massive, multi-state network.
The Greater Plains Collaborative, part of the Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet), will link 10 medical centers across seven states to provide evidence to help patients and their caregivers make better-informed decisions.
Marshfield Clinic, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health are part of the new network.
Investing more than $100 million in developing PCORnet, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) was created through the Affordable Care Act to fund comparative clinical-effectiveness research. The Greater Plains Collaborative expands the number of active patients whose medical information will be available to each institution to 6 million patients, considerably increasing the amount of information for physicians and researchers.
Patient information in the network will be “de-identified,” meaning it will not contain any of the 12 elements that could be used to identify a person.
A challenge for nearly all clinical research is accruing enough patients to make study results meaningful, particularly in cases involving rare diseases. PCORnet can give physicians in the Greater Plains Collaborative the patient histories that otherwise would not be accessible, offering evidence for possible treatments with the best potential.
Studies involving common health conditions will benefit as well, because the larger the number of patient histories available, the faster and better researchers can identify patterns, commonalities and insights into possible disease causes, as well as treatments.
Comparative-effectiveness research - comparing outcomes for different health care approaches using medical devices, drugs, surgeries or other health care services - is a core component to health care reform. Defining the best approaches for clinical and surgical treatments, for example, may give the patients better results and potentially lower costs.
In each of the research strategies described above, prospective studies can be developed with consenting patients, identified through PCORnet as participants.
Of the seven states in the collaborative, Wisconsin is the only one to have three medical centers participate, likely due to existing partnerships and shared infrastructures.
Existing partnerships include the Wisconsin Network for Health Research, a clinical trials network started in 2006 with four statewide partners, and the Midwest Area Research Consortium for Health, a clinical trials network started in 2013 with a focus on clinical trials, as well as educational activities and resource sharing among six regional member institutions, all of which are recipients of a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The Greater Plains Collaborative has received nearly $7 million for its involvement in PCORnet; the three
Funded by PCORI for 18 months, institutions will build and solidify the collaborative and technological infrastructure required to undertake such large trials using big data and massive numbers of people. Having interoperable systems across all institutions is challenging, calling for parallel systems for collecting and managing data, governance structures, common dictionaries of terms, and standard operating procedures.
Greater Plains Collaborative partners by state are: Iowa, University of Iowa Healthcare; Kansas, the University of Kansas Medical Center; Missouri, Children's Mercy Hospital; Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center; Nebraska, the University of Nebraska Medical Center; Texas, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Wisconsin, UW School of Medicine and Public Health, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Marshfield Clinic.
Date Published: 01/27/2014