With PCORI’s Support, ADVANCE Clinical Research Network Expands

March 28, 2024
OCHIN-led network of community health center data strengthens inclusion of populations that have been historically underrepresented in research

The OCHIN-led ADVANCE Clinical Research Network is growing by deepening its existing partnership with the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and adding the University of Washington (UW) as a partner.

The Oregon-based nonprofit OCHIN, which for years has been hosting Epic for a growing network of community health centers nationwide, has recently expanded its offerings to rural hospitals. 

ADVANCE (Accelerating Data Value Across a National Community Health Center Network) was established in 2014 with funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to serve as one of nine networks in PCORnet, a national “network of networks” designed to improve patient outcomes through research. 

As its website states, “the goal of ADVANCE is to build and maintain a network of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) — community-based healthcare organizations — to strengthen inclusion of populations that have been historically underserved and underrepresented in research. ADVANCE adds value to health equity initiatives and health equity research by curating data sets for researchers.”

Over the past decade, OCHIN said, ADVANCE has built the nation’s largest and most comprehensive database on healthcare and outcomes for communities and populations historically underrepresented or excluded from research.

The ADVANCE data warehouse includes research-ready electronic health record data on healthcare and outcomes for over 11 million patients, as well as linked area-level data on the communities and neighborhoods where patients live. To date, ADVANCE has supported over 30 research studies and 80 peer-reviewed publications. In addition, ADVANCE supports an active patient engagement panel to foster patient and community engagement in research.

The expansion will deepen ADVANCE’s existing partnership by adding OHSU’s hospital system as well as data from the University of Washington.  With a $500,000 award from PCORI, OCHIN will expand ADVANCE’s national representation from the Pacific Northwest by bringing an estimated 3.9 million new patients into the ADVANCE Data Warehouse.

“ADVANCE is working to improve health equity by ensuring that the health outcomes and experiences of low-income, uninsured, and underserved patients who receive care in federally qualified health centers are included in research,” said Erika Cottrell, Ph.D., M.P.P., principal investigator of ADVANCE, director of social policy research at OCHIN, and associate professor at OHSU, in a statement. “After a decade building this strong foundation for representative research, we’re excited for our expanded partnership with OHSU and the new collaboration with UW, and we can't wait to see what we accomplish together next.”

The new PCORI funding will build on the framework that ADVANCE has established and further enhance its national footprint by:
• Increasing regional representation of the Pacific Northwest in the ADVANCE network;
• Adding hospital-based clinical data to the data warehouse for the first time, enabling more complete longitudinal data for ADVANCE patients (both inpatient and outpatient);
• Integrating additional sources of data to inform new research, including genomics, tissue, and biospecimens; and
• Bringing additional expertise in clinical trials to the ADVANCE team.

“This will allow researchers across the country to recruit more diverse populations for research projects and do comparative effectiveness studies across disparate populations more efficiently,” said Mohammad Adibuzzaman, Ph.D., director of the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (OCTRI) and an assistant professor at OHSU, in a statement. “In particular, the large network of federally qualified health centers with OCHIN and a large patient population at OHSU will create this unique network in the Pacific Northwest region. The network will contribute to the translational research mission of OHSU and OCTRI by addressing the significant barrier of disparity in clinical research for the underserved population.”

“My University of Washington School of Medicine team, including faculty and staff in the Departments of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine, are excited to collaborate with OCHIN to increase the efficiency of healthcare research that serves the needs of our large, diverse population in the Pacific Northwest,” said Graham Nichol, M.D., professor of medicine and emergency medicine at UW Medicine, in a statement.

The 11 million patients represented by ADVANCE are served by 2,414 OCHIN member health clinics in 39 states and additional clinics served by other ADVANCE partners, including Fenway Health and Health Choice Network. It is overseen by Cottrell and dual-principal investigator John Heintzman, M.D., associate professor at OHSU. 

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