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ACA-funded "comparative effectiveness" research group invites behavioral health grant applications

February 5, 2014
by Alison Knopf, Contributing Writer
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PCORI "high impact" research topics include autism, bipolar disorder, medication adherence, and primary care integration

The Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI, Washington, D.C.) is starting a new grant cycle, with a call for comparative effectiveness research applications opening on February 5 for the spring cycle. “PCORI is definitely interested in behavioral health,” Christine Stencel, associate director of media relations, told Behavioral Healthcare in late January.

PCORI is an organization created by the Affordable Care Act to fund and share research that compares the clinical effectiveness of evidence-based approaches to care to help providers, caregivers and patients make better care choices. In 2013, PCORI made grants to 65 health-related agencies in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and Quebec. Since 2011, it has disbursed more than $460 million to fund healthcare related comparative effectiveness research.

PCORI has updated the announcement of its planned funding initiative, Pragmatic Clinical Studies and Large Single Trials to Evaluate Patient-Centered Outcomes, with additional high-impact topics that potential applicants should consider. These new topics, which were prioritized by multi-stakeholder advisory panels during their recent meetings, include several of interest to behavioral health:

  • autism spectrum disorder,
  • diagnosis and management of bipolar disorder,
  • integration of mental and behavioral health services into primary care for the general population as well as populations at risk for disparities in care and outcomes,
  • the effectiveness of innovative strategies for enhancing patients’ adherence to medication regimens, and,
  • the effectiveness of specific features of health insurance on access to care, use of care, and other outcomes that are especially important to patients.

For an example of what patient-centered comparative effectiveness research looks like, Stencel pointed to a PCORI-funded study that compared the impact of peer-group support to clinician-led support in improving stress levels and other quality-of-life outcomes among Latina breast cancer survivors, their spouses and caregivers. The study is looking at whether culturally relevant support groups make a difference in the outcome. Patient contribution to study design is essential.

PCORI funding announcements for broad projects have two application deadlines each year, May and in November, for the spring and fall cycles, respectively. For its targeted funding announcements, applications will be issued mainly in winter and summer.

There is no limit to the number of times an application can be submitted. As the PCORI director of contracts management explained in a December blog post, “Just as PCORI considers itself a learning organization, we very much want to help applicants submit their best work for us to consider funding – even if it takes more than one try.”

Reviewer critiques can be very helpful – in the last round, 29 percent of the resubmitted applications were funded, compared to an overall 13 percent success rate.

Applicants can also talk to a funding officer directly to get feedback. And plan ahead – there is a great demand for these calls, and if you wait until the end of the application period, you may not have the opportunity. You can schedule the call online or by calling 202-627-1884.

Clearly, the funding review process includes criteria that many researchers and other stakeholders may find unfamiliar, so PCORI schedules webinars and training programs.

Interested applicants can start submitting Letters of Intent on Wednesday, Feb. 5 and can learn more at a PCORI applicant “town hall” webinar on February 12 or by consulting an overview of the Pragmatic Clinical Studies funding initiative found at the PCORI website.

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