Supporting Better Science in Primary Care: A Description of Practice-based Research Networks (PBRNs) in 2011

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Bound by a shared commitment to improving medical care through systematic inquiry, practice-based research networks (PBRNs) provide a basic laboratory for primary care research and dissemination.


Data from US primary care PBRNs were collected as part of the 2011 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality PBRN registration process. Data addressed PBRN characteristics, research activities, and perceived strengths and weaknesses.


One hundred forty-three primary care PBRNs were registered with the resource center in 2011, including 131 that were identified as either eligible for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recognition (n = 121) or as developing (n = 10). These PBRNs included 12,981 practices with more than 63,000 individual members providing care to approximately 47.5 million people. PBRNs had an average of 482 individual members (median, 170) from 101 practices (median, 32).


PBRNs are growing in experience and research capacity. With member practices serving approximately 15% of the US population, PBRNs are adopting more advanced study designs, disseminating and implementing practice change, and participating in clinical trials. PBRNs provide valuable capacity for investigating questions of importance to clinical practice, disseminating results, and implementing evidence-based strategies. PBRNs are well positioned to support the emerging public health role of primary care providers and provide an essential component of a learning health care system.

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