What is a PBRN?

Practice based Research Networks (PBRNs) are comprised of medical practice sites that are devoted to the primary care needs of their patients. The network provides these practices with an affiliation to other primary care practices, and a commitment to researching and investigating community-based, patient population specific issues in primary care. The clinician and practice staff have the familiarity and expertise to identify pertinent areas of research that can produce effective and immediate interventions in the care of their patients and thus, research is practice-driven, instead of researcher-driven.

Practice based research networks (PBRNs) began in the 1970s and successfully produced scholarship that developed our understandings of primary care. Their success led to the development of a national PBRN, which set the stage for regional networks as well as federal interest and acknowledgement on the important of network research to increase health services and decrease health care disparities.1 Practice based research networks are transforming the ways traditional research and quality improvement plans approach primary health care. The integration of practice and research has established several key characteristics of practice based research networks, the greatest of which is the focus on the integration of research and application.2

PBRNs have been receiving increased attention from federal funders over the past 5 years as the major vehicle for studying and improving the quality of primary care provided in this country. Agencies such as the National Cancer Institute and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), and funders such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have begun to earmark a percentage of their dollars for research conducted through PBRNs. LA Net has been the recipient of funding to implement and enhance a network focused on health care disparities in Los Angeles. We continue to vie for federal and foundation funding to conduct research with our provider members and their practice sites.

LA Net is also a member of the Federation of Practice Based Research Networks. Our membership in the Federation will allow us to connect and collaborate with networks across the nation and provide us with advocacy on the federal level. The Federation of Practice Based Research Networks provides the infrastructure to nurture networks and network practitioners across the country. Aside from acting as a conduit to facilitate collaboration among networks, the Federation also provides advocacy on the federal level to increase the capacity for research networks. Examples of research conducted by PBRNs include a multitude of topics such as, patient safety, herbal use/alternative medicine in primary care, physician preparedness for bioterrorism, stress in physicians and patients as well as insurance compliance and barriers.

1 Green (1999). To read more about the history of Practice Based Research Networks by Larry Green and the current state of PBRN research in the United States, read Practice Based Research Networks in the 21st Century: The Pearls of Research which can be obtained from the American Academy of Family Physicians Catalog (800-944-0000).
2 Mold, J. and Peterson, K. (2005). Primary care practice-based research networks: Working at the interface between research and quality improvement. Annals of Family Medicine 3 (1) S12-S20.