Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute awards $1.6 million

SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 19, 2013) — The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) this month funded two research awards totaling $1.6 million to faculty investigators in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

Barbara J. Turner, M.D., M.S.Ed., M.A., MACP, professor in the Department of Medicine, was awarded $715,539 over 30 months. Dr. Turner will lead a multi-institutional team studying different approaches to involve communities in health research. One approach will be tested in Frio County and a separate one in Karnes County. The South Central Area Health Education Center and the UT School of Public Health are key collaborators in the project. Dr. Turner is director of the Research to Advance Community Health (ReACH) Center, a collaboration of the UT Health Science Center, University Health System and the UT School of Public Health.

“Community members are not usually partners with researchers in identifying important research questions and evaluating how research can relate to their own real-world care,” Dr. Turner said. “We will evaluate novel ways to engage the community in addressing an important public health problem, chronic low back pain, focusing on gaining input from Latino patients and caregivers. Our predominant Latino population has much to contribute to meaningful research but has not to date collaborated on the development of research initiatives. We aim to correct that.”

The chronic low back pain project will test purposive sampling and respondent-driven sampling. In Frio County, a community advisory board will recruit residents to sign up as stakeholders, who in turn will ask others to join, and so forth. This is respondent-driven sampling. In Karnes County, a community advisory board will help the research team learn about the occupations and other activities of residents of Karnes County to inform recruitment of a diverse group to serve as stakeholders. This is purposive sampling. Ultimately, the evaluation of these two sampling methods will be used by the research team in collaboration with community partners to develop a protocol for involving patients and stakeholders in patient-centered outcomes research.

Dawn Velligan, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Schizophrenia in the Department of Psychiatry, was awarded $928,845 over three years. Dr. Velligan is involved in running a 90-day transitional care clinic for patients with serious mental illness who are leaving the hospital. The goal is to smooth the transition to outpatient treatment and prevent repeated re-hospitalizations or emergency room visits.

The PCORI grant will be used to examine two approaches to transitional treatment to see which is more effective: a more traditional model versus an approach that increases patient engagement and emphasizes shared decision-making between patient and health care provider.

“We created the transitional clinic because the hospital readmission rate for serious mental illness was so high in Bexar County,” Dr. Velligan said. “People end up using the emergency room as their primary care doctor for mental health. Our clinic is intended to take care of people until we can connect them with services in our community.”

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