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PCORI Official Forecasts Busy Agenda

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

April 17, 2012 -- The next month will be a busy one for the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). At a briefing last week on comparative effectiveness research, the chief operating officer provided specific dates for upcoming decisions and gave more details about how the group is approaching its work.

The Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) was created by the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, 111-152). Its mission is to fund research that will give patients and medical providers better information about what works best in medicine, including studies comparing different ways of caring for or preventing a disease.

The institute's COO, Anne Beal, said that before the end of April, PCORI officials will tell the public how it plans to prioritize different types of research. The group released a draft research agenda in January and received comments on it, some of which criticized the group for being too vague. The final version will be out in about 10 days, Beal said at an event sponsored by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

On May 10, Beal said that a major report that will give researchers guidance on what types of methodologies they should use in their research will be sent to the board of governors and released for public comment soon after. The much-anticipated report will seek to help researchers understand how the group will prioritize questions, what types of study designs might be most effective for different types of questions, and how the perspective of patients could be incorporated into studies.

On May 21, a PCORI will issue a funding announcement that many groups have been waiting for: It is expected to give researchers a clearer idea of the types of projects that PCORI plans to fund in its first broad funding awards, which are expected in December.
PCORI is also expected to announce who will receive about $13 million in pilot project grants next month.

Beal said that the researchers for every project that PCORI funds will have to explain how their findings will be communicated to the public.
"JAMA is not enough," said Beal. She gave examples of town hall meetings, briefings and op-eds in newspapers as examples of ways that researchers might want to propose getting out the word about their work.

Part of the challenge is that the group wants patients, not just clinicians, to hear about research findings. The group wants researchers to propose ways of explaining results to hard-to-reach populations or patients who could particularly benefit from the studies, such as those in particular geographical areas and members of certain minority or ethnic groups.

The PCORI staff also plans to help with dissemination by holding conferences and workshops.

Beal noted that there is no guarantee in the law that PCORI's funding will last beyond 2019, so the group is already thinking about its legacy. The research that is most likely to get funded, she said, is relevant work that will answer real questions and can be communicated widely in a way that will impact patients' medical treatments.

"It's not just is it interesting, but can we actually improve care for people?" said Beal.

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