The 22nd Annual Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN) Conference took place on April 13-16, 2016 in Atlanta, GA. The theme for this year’s conference was Advancing Population Health: New Models and the Role of Research. Three notable points that particularly highlighted this theme include: (1) growth of the HCSRN to include new sites that are not traditional integrated delivery systems, such as Catholic Health Initiatives, which covers a big geographic area but does not offer insurance products; (2) a call to do a better job engaging patients in research, which was emphasized in the opening presentation and in several sessions that included patient presenters; and (3) the importance of sharing data. Regarding this last point, Sarah Greene, CRN alum and now the inaugural Executive Director of HCSRN, noted that the pressure to share data is increasing and HCSRN needs to take the lead in determining how this will be done, rather than wait for legislators, NIH, and others to establish laws or policies. Sarah added that this includes making sure data are of high quality and shared in a usable manner. Sarah will be actively working on these issues in the coming year with the HCSRN Board of Directors.
Two other, more personal observations from this meeting were:
Some of the most visible HCSRN leaders from the past 20ish years, who have also been long standing colleagues of mine, are beginning to retire. Particularly notable is Mark Hornbrook from Kaiser Permanente Northwest, who has been involved in the CRN since it began. There is a capable crew of investigators following behind who I believe will be more amenable to collaboration and data sharing.
As noted by Joe Selby, head of PCORI, the CRN’s Virtual Data Warehouse is clearly the foundation on which all other HCSRN data resources are being built. This is personally fulfilling in that I was one of a handful of people who developed and implemented this concept.
As always, my time at the meeting was spent having rich and fruitful discussions with many former colleagues and potential new collaborators. I will be curious to see how the HCSRN moves forward in these changing times of population health research.