Some Observers Questioning PCORI’s Grant Recipient Choices

August 7, 2014 in News

Some observers are questioning whether the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute is capable of promoting change within the U.S. health system, Modern Healthcare reports (Rice, Modern Healthcare, 8/4).

Background

PCORI is a not-for-profit organization created under the Affordable Care Act to fund comparative-effectiveness research (iHealthBeat, 4/24/13).

Over the last two years, PCORI has funded several research projects (Modern Healthcare, 8/4). Most recently, PCORI’s Board of Governors announced it will award $54.8 million in funding to 33 new research projects including:

  • A project by Duke University that aims to improve the use of electronic health records and claims registries and data for PCORI;
  • A project by Emory University that will develop a framework for creating private and confidential data registries for PCORI; and
  • A Johns Hopkins University effort to create new technology that will help modernize data abstraction in systemic reviews of health data, as well as compare computer-assisted data abstraction with more traditional methods (iHealthBeat, 8/4).

Other health IT-related projects that have received PCORI funding include:

  • The Chicago Area Patient-Centered Clinical Outcomes Research Network, a database created by a group of health researchers in Chicago, which received a $7 million PCORI grant (iHealthBeat, 4/14); and
  • PCORnet, a national clinical research data network to improve comparative effectiveness research that is being funded by a $93.5 million PCORI grant (iHealthBeat, 12/19/13).

In addition, PCORI in March launched a new mobile health application challenge to boost research partnerships between patients, stakeholders and researchers. Developers will have until Aug. 15 to submit their apps, and winners will be announced on Sept. 22 at the Health 2.0 conference (iHealthBeat, 3/31).

PCORI Critics

According to Modern Healthcare, some critics have said pilot projects funded by PCORI over the last two years have not included rigorous enough trials to inform changes to the way care is delivered.

For example, an opinion piece by Scott Gottlieb — a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute — published recently in Morning Consult noted that PCORI was supposed to help fill a “purported private void” of research that was not being done by the private sector to assess pressing questions about the comparative effectiveness of different treatments.

However, he wrote that the $54.8 million in funding for 33 new research projects awarded last week by PCORI were “mostly trivial” and for “studies of how to do studies.”

Joe Selby, executive director of PCORI, in a statement said much of the organization’s research grants have been intended to “lear[n] to do research differently” and determine a framework for evaluating clinical effectiveness. He added that PCORI’s initial efforts have been modest but that the organization plans to fund larger studies going forward (Modern Healthcare, 8/4).

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