Researchers develop architecture to support practice-based research networks

A joint U.S. and British research group has developed an information architecture to support electronic practice-based research networks (PBRNs), linking disparate electronic health record systems and providing a foundation for software development in support of network-based research, according to a report published in the current issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Electronic support of PBRNs facilitates participation in clinical trials and other clinical research opportunities, including collection of aggregated data and the exchange of information between investigators and "clusters of independent data sites," according to the article, "A Model for the Electronic Support of Practice-Based Research Networks."

The U.S. has more than 150 PBRNs involving 67,000 clinicians from 16,500 clinical practices, the researchers note. Last year, for example, the Partnership to Advance Clinical Electronic Research (PACeR), launched a pilot program to link life-sciences companies, hospitals, academic centers and others into an electronic clinical research data network.

With the PACeR network, one of the challenges noted was the need for developing a common language allowing different EHR systems to share information for clinical studies.

In the AFM article, the researchers described their web architecture this way:

Functional components were divided into "packages" reflecting hardware requirements, actors, data governance, and PBRN business rules. Web service communication was independent of internal data structure. Packages identified as "services" provide a reference service that could be used by multiple PBRNs. Any package can be interchanged with a customized application using similar Web services. Finally, the "ability to replicate, improve and replace packages enhances scalability and supports a customized distributed model."

A fast, efficient infrastructure "offers the possibility of rapid advances in a wide variety of areas including comparative effectiveness research, patient safety, event monitoring for drugs and devices, and clinical trials," the researchers said.

To learn more:
- here's the report