University of Minnesota partners with other CTSA institutions to successfully secure an award to form a national data network

PCORI awards $93.5 million to develop 29 national networks to support more efficient patient-centered research

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) recently approved $93.5 million to support clinical research data networks that together will form an ambitious new resource known as PCORnet, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network. One of the 29 data networks supported by the grant is the Greater Plains Collaborative (GPC), which includes the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center.

GPC is a new network of 10 leading medical centers in seven states committed to a shared vision of improving healthcare delivery through ongoing learning, adoption of evidence-based practices, and active research dissemination. The collaborative group - which features eight Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) institutions, including the U of M - will receive $7 million in PCORI funding.

"We're proud to team with our GPC partners to help create a secure, national data network that supports more efficient, patient-centered research," says Connie Delaney, PhD, RN, who is the Dean of the U of M's School of Nursing, directs Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Biomedical Informatics and University of Minnesota Biomedical Health Informatics, and serves as key personnel of the GPC team. "Securing this grant from PCORI is a testament to our successful research programs, data sharing network with Fairview Health Services, and collaborations - both at the U of M and across the broader GPC team."

The Greater Plains Collaborative brings together a diverse population of 6 million people across 1,300 miles covering seven states with a combined area of 679,159 square miles, and includes patients in underserved minority and rural areas. Partners by state are:

  • Kansas, the University of Kansas Medical Center
  • Missouri, Children's Mercy Hospital
  • Iowa, University of Iowa Healthcare
  • Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Marshfield Clinic
  • Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center
  • Nebraska, the University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Texas, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

The GPC builds on its sites' strong research programs, existing community engagement initiatives, informatics infrastructures, and data warehouses, which most sites developed through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) initiative. In addition, the GPC boasts extensive expertise with commercial electronic health records (EHR) systems and terminology standardization, as well as strong working relationships between investigators and healthcare system information technology departments. The University of Minnesota's health systems partner, Fairview Health Services, is integral to this initiative.

The GPC complements its healthcare systems' considerable investments in EHRs by using existing NIH-funded open source technologies to provide a cost-effective common data model that promotes data transparency and interoperability. These technologies include the i2b2 cohort-discovery tool and REDCap data collection application adopted by many CTSAs, including the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which is the academic home of the CTSA at the University of Minnesota. The GPC builds on its data repositories and their accompanying data security and de-identification methods as well as other existing CTSA and research investments.

The GPC is a new network with proven technologies based on two common EHR systems - Epic and Cerner - used at its 10 sites, shared open source software, strong research infrastructures (e.g., CTSA programs, National Cancer Institute-funded cancer centers), and experience with patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative effectiveness research at each site. Together, these characteristics will enable the GPC network's implementation and ensure its sustainability. Most notably, the GPC will provide a blueprint for creating de novo highly functional research data networks to conduct pragmatic PCOR and CER trials required for a national learning healthcare system.

"This collaboration is one example of how CTSI teams up with other CTSAs to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of research," says Bruce Blazar, MD, Director of CTSI. "By sharing expertise, leveraging insights more broadly, and providing researchers with a rich data set, we can accelerate research and improve our ability to support multi-institutional studies. This is a huge win for researchers and patients alike."