Practice-Based Research Today: A Changing Primary Care Landscape Requires Changes in Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN) Research

Nancy C. Elder, MD, MSPH


J Am Board Fam Med. 2019;32(5):647-650. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Primary care has changed in the past 40 years, and research performed within and by practice-based research networks (PBRN) needs to change to keep up with the current practice landscape. A key task for PBRNs is to connect with today's stakeholders, not only the traditional physicians, providers, office staff, and patients, but health systems, insurance companies, and government agencies. In addition to one-time externally funded engagement efforts, PBRNs must develop and report on sustainable, long-term strategies. PBRNs are also demonstrating how they use classic practice-based research techniques of practice facilitation and electronic health record (EHR) data extraction and reporting in new and important research areas, such as studying the opioid epidemic. PBRNs are adapting and transforming along with primary care.


Practice-based research networks (PBRNs) continue to be a vital resource for producing important, high-quality research for family medicine and primary care. But is there really anything new in what they are doing? PBRNs began in the 1970s as a response from family medicine that traditional research was not answering the important questions of practicing physicians in a manner that could be easily translated into practice.[1,2] Physicians wanted then—and still want today—research that will improve their patient outcomes, their practice workflow, and the health of their communities.[3,4] Today's primary care physicians, though, are not the same as in the 1970s. In addition to EHRs and other technological advances of the past 40 years, today's family physicians are more likely to be employed ( and to be female.( These are important considerations for contemporary PBRN researchers, and this issue of JABFM shows that yes, there are new things to report from PBRN research.