The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and Health Care Technology Research

Greg Martin
July 26, 2022

As a longtime colleague and friend of Affinity Strategies CEO, Liz Schumacher, I was delighted to be invited to contribute to the Affinity blog and for the opportunity to tell you a bit about our work at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by federal law. Our mission is to help patients and those who care for them others with actionable information about their health and healthcare choices. We do this by funding comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) and promoting the dissemination and uptake into practice of this evidence. The best evidence in the world does no good if it simply sits on a shelf.

The critical, and unique, element of our work is engagement. We bring to the table stakeholders from across the health sector—patients and caregivers, clinicians and systems, payers and purchasers, policymakers and researchers—to help us understand and deliver evidence that addresses their needs.  We also expect engagement of those we fund all the way through the research process, from topic selection, through the conduct of the research, to promotion of the results, ideally leading to uptake into practice.

The majority of our funding goes towards CER, but we also support engagement in research, efforts to disseminate and implement PCORI-funded evidence, methodology research and the development of research infrastructure. You can find results from all completed studies, as well as information on ongoing studies, in our research portfolio. And if you are interested in applying for funding, please check out our funding opportunities.  

While our work mostly focuses on established interventions with proven efficacy, we recognize that new interventions are constantly entering the marketplace. As we saw, and monitored, during the COVID-19 pandemic, new treatments and approaches can emerge quickly. I’d like to share a few ways we help our stakeholders across the health sector wrap their arms around new health technologies.

In 2019, we instituted the PCORI Health Care Horizon Scanning System (HCHSS), which identifies and monitors new and emerging healthcare technologies and other innovations that are not yet firmly established in health care but have a high potential for disruption to the current standard of care. The goal is to help our stakeholders—again, patients and caregivers, clinicians and systems, payers and purchasers, policymakers and researchers—get a better handle on forthcoming entrants to the marketplace. The Horizon Scanning database is updated regularly, but we also issue quarterly reports covering emerging innovations in such topic areas as cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental and behavioral health, rare diseases, and, more recently, COVID-19.

In 2019 we also began publishing Emerging Technologies and Therapeutics Reports. These reports summarize evidence supporting new healthcare technologies, drugs and devices that have recently become part of clinical care or may in the near future. Diving a bit deeper on topics than does our Horizon Scanning, we’ve covered novel areas including gene therapies, proteomics for cancer and cardiovascular disease and genomic sequencing for cancer management.

Given the tremendous increase in the use of telemedicine and telehealth as a result of the pandemic, you may also be interested our recently published piece Video-Teleconferencing for Disease Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment. This is the first in a new series of Rapid Reviews, which synthesize evidence in an accelerated way, part of our broader initiative to help accelerate the pace of research. The report summarized evidence from 20 randomized controlled trials and found that for the health conditions studied, using video teleconferencing for care delivery appeared to be as effective as usual care and may also improve patient outcomes when used as part of a comprehensive strategy. Another rapid review report, Telehealth Strategies for the Delivery of Maternal Healthcare, was just published this week.

We hope our work can help you and your colleagues in your decision making. Other important technology-related topics on PCORI’s radar are artificial intelligence and machine learning; health information technology, apps, and smart devices; and proteomics, genomics, and personalized medicine. We look forward to telling you more about our work in these areas in further contributions to this blog!

Greg Martin is Acting Chief Engagement and Dissemination Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). He previously worked at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), where he was responsible for leading AAFP’s governmental advocacy assistance to its state and territorial chapters, including research on issues such as health reform implementation, Medicaid, and the patient-centered medical home.