Kaiser eyes outcomes with new network

'An important next step in the 20-year journey of Kaiser Permanente'
By Mike Miliard
11:00 AM

Kaiser Permanente will put its longtime IT expertise to work in building a clinical data network aimed at improving patient outcomes in cancer, heart disease and obesity.

Funded with a $7 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the network is one of 29 projects approved for a total of $93.5 million to form PCORnet: the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, which seeks to improve the efficiency of health research.

This network – called Kaiser Permanente & Strategic Partners Patient Outcomes Research To Advance Learning, or PORTAL – will convene four healthcare delivery systems: Kaiser Permanente, Group Health Cooperative, HealthPartners and Denver Health. It will also include the 11 research centers affiliated with those systems, and the patients, clinicians and operational leaders to develop the infrastructure necessary to conduct comparative effectiveness research.

[See also: PCORI funds 30 outcomes projects.]

PORTAL is led by principal investigator Elizabeth McGlynn, director of Kaiser Permanente's Center for Effectiveness & Safety Research, and co-principal investigator Tracy Lieu, MD, director of KP Northern California's Division of Research. It will develop data systems necessary to conduct studies with patients in three areas: colorectal cancer, severe congenital heart disease and obesity.

"The PCORI award represents an important next step in the 20-year journey of Kaiser Permanente and its partners to realize the vision of becoming learning healthcare organizations, that is, to be able to ask and answer the questions that are important to our members and their clinicians," said McGlynn in a press statement. "We are excited to be part of this national initiative and believe it will ultimately translate into better care for our members and for patients nationally."

PCORI envisions PCORnet to be a secure, national data network that improves the speed, efficiency and use of patient-centered comparative effectiveness research, officials say. By enhancing the ability to leverage data available in the 29 other individual networks, PCORnet aims to make it easier and faster to conduct comparative effectiveness research on large, nationally representative samples of patients using a variety of research designs.

"PCORnet presents a terrific opportunity to further develop Kaiser Permanente's vision of using computerized data to help patients achieve better health," said Lieu in a statement. "This vision was first described more than 50 years ago by Morrie Collen, the founding director of our research program. We have world-class leaders in research in the three focus areas for our network — colorectal cancer, heart disease and obesity — and this is a great chance for us to transform healthcare through patient engagement."

[See also: Kaiser gives 'magic' of its technology to speed move to digital healthcare.]

During the next 18 months, the Kaiser Permanente-led team will use the PCORI funds to expand and improve its research systems, continue work on standardizing its data for research and participate in developing policies for the national network that govern data sharing and security and protection of patient privacy, officials say. It also will refine PORTAL's capacity to engage and recruit patients and other stakeholders interested in participating in research, including clinical trials.

"We are pleased that the Kaiser Permanente data network will be part of this exciting initiative to build the data structures needed to significantly enhance the speed and efficiency of patient-centered comparative effectiveness research," said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, in a statement.

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