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NRN Subnetwork Partnering with DARTNet to Study Mental Health Care in Primary Care
Research Supported by $990,000 Grant from AHRQ
"We hope this will offer opportunities for policymakers and providers to see the importance of integrating mental health in primary care," said Miller, administrative director of the CCRN, which is a subnetwork of the AAFP's National Research Network, or AAFP NRN.
Miller said researchers will look at models of care and methods of integrating mental health care into primary care. "There are a lot of questions we hope to answer."
The CCRN was launched last year with the intention of investigating and evaluating the integration of mental health services in primary care settings.
Miller said such integration is important because most patients referred to outside mental health services don't go, and mental health is the most difficult specialty for primary care physicians to refer to.
A study published last year in Health Affairs found that two-thirds of primary care physicians don't have access to mental health specialists because of numerous barriers, including lack of mental health professionals and insurance restrictions.
The CCRN project, which is supported by a $990,000 grant from AHRQ, will link the CCRN with DARTNet, a national network with access to electronic health records from thousands of physicians and about 3.5 million patients.
Miller said working with DARTNet will allow the CCRN to examine more patients with multiple morbidities than it could otherwise, and DARTNet also will allow the CCRN to partner more easily with practices across the country, resulting in robust data collection.
The partnership has been dubbed the Collaborative National Network Examining Comparative Effectiveness Trials, or CoNNECT.
Miller said there are three aims:
- establish and test CoNNECT;
- demonstrate the effectiveness of the data extraction and the infrastructure's capacity by conducting a research project; and
- evaluate CoNNECT to determine it strengths, weaknesses and potential for extensive comparative effectiveness research with patients from under represented groups with both mental conditions and other priority chronic medical conditions.
Miller said the research project also has three aims:
- compare the proportion of identified patients with multi-morbid mental health and physical health diagnoses in practices implementing an integrated collaborative care model with those in practices making referrals to outside mental health or substance use specialists;
- compare the extent to which patients in respective models are enrolled in effective interventions; and
- describe the feasibility of such comparisons on a large scale.