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Pitt, UPMC Receive Awards to Create Clinical Data Research Network, Conduct Comparative Effectiveness Research

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and UPMC and their collaborators at other academic centers have received three new awards from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to establish a new clinical data network to facilitate evaluation of the outcomes of health interventions; compare two approaches to encourage communication between patients with mental illness and the health professionals who provide their care; and develop guidelines to help researchers select optimal methods to analyze data from studies in which they observed, but did not try to influence, outcomes.
The projects were among 82 selected for a total of $191 million in funding in December by PCORI, an independent nonprofit organization that was authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2010 to help patients and health care providers make informed decisions based on the best available research. The new Pitt awards build upon seven current PCORI-funded projects and subcontracts totaling over $11 million.
“PCORI’s leadership in this area is unparalleled, and we are pleased to have several projects considered worthy of forwarding its mission,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have built an infrastructure that encourages comparative effectiveness research, in which existing health interventions are compared to identify the ones that do people the most good and the least harm. PCORI’s support reflects the success of these efforts.”
The projects approved for awards are:
• The creation of a clinical data research network (CDRN) to facilitate the integration of health information to allow evaluation of the effectiveness, benefits and potential harm of treatment options for specific health problems so that patients can make informed decisions about their care. This collaboration of Pitt and UPMC, partnered with Johns Hopkins University/Johns Hopkins Health System and Johns Hopkins Health Care, Penn State College of Medicine/Hershey Medical Center, and Temple University School of Medicine/Temple Health will access data from more than 2.5 million patients in seven states and the District of Columbia, and will use UPMC’s clinical data architecture and the University of Pittsburgh’s Comparative Effectiveness Research Core (CERC) and associated data center. It is one of 29 health-system based or patient-led networks that will integrate information into PCORnet, establishing “a data infrastructure that will allow for large-scale research to be conducted with diverse populations, thereby improving generalizability and efficiency,” said Wishwa Kapoor, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor, Falk Professor of Medicine, and chief, Division of General Internal Medicine. The principal investigator is Rachel Hess, M.D., associate professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine.
• An evaluation of two approaches to improve communication and shared decision-making among Medicaid-enrolled adults with serious mental illness and their physicians and others providing their care. In one group, trained peers will help patients use a web-based application to report recovery goals and current function before seeing their doctor, psychologist or nurse about their medications. The other group will complete a standardized web-based questionnaire about symptoms and side effects prior to appointments to review medications. “This study reflects the true spirit of PCORI by directly involving patients, providers and other key stakeholders in all aspects of the research,” said Donna Keyser, Ph.D., M.B.A., senior director of the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care. “Our goal is to understand how technology can be used to support shared decision making in ways that work best for patients.” The principal investigator is Kim MacDonald-Wilson, Sc.D., of the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care, and adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine.
• An analysis of existing comparative effectiveness research data and methods to devise specific strategies investigators can use to select the best ways to analyze data and answer research questions when conducting observational studies in which no interventions are performed to influence outcomes. The principal investigator is Douglas Landsittel, Ph.D., professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine.
Integrated resources allow an exclusive focus on the best outcomes for the patient, noted CERC Director Sally C. Morton, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Biostatistics, Pitt Graduate School of Public Health, and the statistical expert to the PCORI Methodology Committee.
“The success of the researchers across Pitt and UPMC, as well as the collaborations they have fostered, helps patients, families and other stakeholders make the best health care decisions they can and improves the health of our communities,” she said. “Pitt and UPMC’s long-term commitment to this national endeavor, particularly the investment in the CERC, has produced a flourishing environment that will have a far-reaching impact.”
All of the awards are approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal contract.


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