National Research Network (NRN)

The American Academy of Family Physicians National Research Network (AAFP NRN) was established in 1999 to conduct, support, promote, and advocate for primary care research in practice-based settings. 

The AAFP NRN assists in realizing overall strategies for achieving improved primary care for the nation. These include: supporting initiatives in advancing the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH), promoting an ongoing imperative for practice change through improved use of technology, education and communication; assisting our members to achieve financial success through optimal practice management; involving family physicians in targeted public health activities (specifically tobacco, obesity, exercise and immunizations); and increasing member and patient awareness of resources through educational programs.

About Practice-based Research Networks

A practice-based research network (PBRN) is a group of practices devoted principally to the care of patients and affiliated for the purpose of examining the health care processes that occur in practices. PBRNs are characterized by an organizational framework that transcends a single practice or study. They provide a "laboratory" for studying broad populations of patients and care providers in community-based settings.

The Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research( (AHRQ) has devoted funds to assist and support primary care PBRNs. For this reason, the PBRN Resource Center( was developed, providing technical support to primary care PBRN in areas such as PBRN research methodology (including research design, analytic strategies, and organizational development), Health Information Technology, and network maintenance. The Resource Center also builds the capacity of these networks through education in primary care research and data collection best practices. 

PBRNs support the Patient Centered Medical Home to improve upon the health of our communities. Through increasing efficiency and team-based approaches within family practices nationwide, the quality of health care will continuously improve.

History of the AAFP NRN

In August 1999, the AAFP established the National Network for Family Practice and Primary Care Research (now the AAFP NRN). From 1999 to today, the growth of practices involved with the NRN has been steady as physicians are empowered through research to help their communities and world.

Many NRN clinicians were recruited from the former Ambulatory Sentinel Practice Network (ASPN), a North American primary care practice-based research network established in 1978. ASPN ceased operations in 1999; however, the legacy of ASPN’s success lives on in the AAFP NRN.

The Board of Directors of the AAFP established the AAFP NRN to preserve the momentum of ASPN in studying the phenomenon of primary care. The major contributors to the development and long-standing success of ASPN have rallied their support behind the AAFP NRN and can provide the benefit of ASPN’s 20+ years of experience in practice-based research.

Funding an NRN Study

The NRN receives funding from government agencies such as the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as various pharmaceutical companies and private foundations.

If you’re interested in funding a research study please contact the AAFP Foundation at 800-274-2237, ext. 4454 or visit their website,

AAFP Institutional Review Board

The AAFP Institutional Review Board is the IRB of record for the NRN. IRB members review protocols for the protection of human subjects.

Human Subjects Training

Please contact Mindy Spano at for more information and instructions.

Submitting an Application

You must be previously authorized to submit an IRB application to the AAFP IRB. Any applications involving the AAFP NRN will be submitted by NRN staff. For Investigators working with the AAFP NRN, or to submit protocols for review, you may request an application or additional information by contacting:

Jennifer Farris
IRB Assistant
American Academy of Family Physicians
Office of General Counsel
1-800-274-2237 x6454

Research Oversight and Human Subject Protections

For additional information on the protection of rights, welfare, and wellbeing of subjects involved in research please visit the Office for Healthcare Research Protections( (OHRP). The OHRP provides clarification and guidance by developing educational programs and materials, maintaining regulatory oversight, and providing advice on ethical and regulatory issues in biomedical and social-behavioral research.


Participation in the AAFP NRN is free of charge and the amount of involvement is left completely up to the physician. 

Our projects vary from quick surveys to more involved randomized control trials that are often related to incorporating changes into your practice. Practices are often compensated for their time, but, due to funding, this may be limited. While each study is different in this regard, we are committed to making NRN studies worth the effort for physicians who volunteer to participate. 

Most family physicians who participate in the AAFP NRN find the studies do not interfere with patient care. They enjoy the collegiality of the study meetings and the satisfaction that comes from contributing to new medical knowledge and strengthening the research base of Family Medicine.

Below is additional information about becoming a member of the AAFP NRN. 

Currently we have four distinctive membership types:

  • Individual Clinician, Practice and Residency Membership -- Individual clinicians, multi-clinician practices, or residency faculty can join and participate in studies as individuals or as a group. 
  • Collaborative Care Research Network (CCRN) -- a membership comprised of behavioral health clinicians and primary care physicians who are interested in improving their patient-centered medical homes through collaborative care. CCRN evaluates the effectiveness of collaboration between behavioral health, psychology, and substance abuse intervention and primary medical care to better respond to the needs of patients and their families. 
  • Electronic National Quality Improvement and Research Network (eNQUIRENet) -- The NRN's Electronic Network is a network of electronic health record data that can be securely searched and queried. Participating practices range from solo clinicians to large primary care groups to multi-specialty groups to academic health centers. 
  • Affiliated PBRNs -- The AAFP NRN is affiliated with numerous regional practice-based research networks through formal agreements to join forces and pool collective resources to collaborate on research for the best possible outcomes. 

To obtain more information on membership in the AAFP NRN, please contact Kaari Kittell at 1-800-274-2237, ext. 3180 or


See Also
  • CCRN: The Collaborative Care Research Network (CCRN) is a sub-network of the AAFP’s National Research Network, created so that clinicians from across the country can ask questions and investigate how to make collaborative care work more effectively.
Related Links
  • DARTNet( the AAFP NRN collaborates with DARTNet to conduct quality improvement and effectiveness and translation investigations through a data-driven learning system.

Collaborating with the AAFP NRN

Working with the AAFP NRN doesn’t always involve membership. There are many other opportunities available for interested clinicians, researchers, and organizations, including:

  • Funders interested in supporting a study within the AAFP NRN.
  • Regional PBRNs interested in becoming affiliated with the AAFP NRN.
  • Investigators interested in collaborating with the AAFP NRN on a project or study.
  • Clinicians and Researchers interested in participating in one of our Committees.

For additional information on working with the AAFP NRN, please contact:

Brian Manning
Associate Research Director
AAFP National Research Network
11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
Leawood, KS 66211
913-906-6000 x3179

Policies and Guidelines

To request a copy of our policies and guidelines pertaining to industry funded research; working with external investigators; member communication and sharing; writing and publications; data sharing, security and use; or study selection please contact Mindy Spano at or click here