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Network aims to let behavioral researchers 'just ask the question'

May 2, 2011
by Dennis Grantham, Editor-in-Chief
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Evidence-based practices are the holy grail of the behavioral health field, and the gold standard for the entire field of healthcare.

But doing all of that research can be an arduous process—starting with the development of each study. You’ve got to design the study, identify and qualify the subjects, train the researchers, collect the data, and then analyze it. One might say that one of the most significant impediments to behavioral health research is the research process itself.

It seems that “everytime you do a study, you’ve got to reinvent the wheel,” says Casey Bennett, a “data architect” at Centerstone Research Institute, who as a graduate student and professional, noted the difficulties of the research process.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” he asked, “if all a researcher had to do is ask the question?”

That is one of the goals of the Knowledge Network, a research collaborative launched several years ago by CRI that now includes eight major behavioral health organizations. Because Knowledge Network members have agreed to what CRI CEO Denny Morrison, PhD calls “the boring stuff, the process stuff” that make consistent data collection and interchange possible, they’re opening up a world in which, indeed, all a researcher has to do is “ask the question.”

Bennett is one of people who looks after that stuff—all those “boring” details. He isn’t a “behavioral health” guy—his passion is for considering and analyzing large, multi-variable bodies of “population” data using an approach called data mining.

In the future, through structures like the Knowledge Network, and through the development and sharing of industry-wide standards for data collection and sharing, perhaps it will be easier to get essential research done.

Morrison says that among the Knowledge Network’s near-term goals is to find a way to share its growing database—which now contains some one million patient records (de-identified, of course)—to the field for activities such as data mining.

The Network is also open to welcoming new members. For more information about the CRI Knowledge Network, contact Morrison, Bennett, or CRI’s communications director, April Bragg, PhD.

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Dennis Grantham

Dennis Grantham

@BH_dgrantham

www.behavioral.net