Purpose: This paper shares insights from the process of conducting the Direct Observation of Primary Care (DOPC) Study. That study involved a multimethod approach for evaluating the structure, process, and health system context of family practice.
Consensus process: The study participants (academic investigators, clinicians, and research nurses) met in groups. By reflecting on the study process, these groups identified insights that may be useful to other investigators planning or conducting primary care research.
Lessons: The story of the DOPC study is one of collaboration leading to innovation and the development of ongoing relationships and a persistent research trajectory. Six factors were identified as important to the success of the primary care research process: (1) A generalist perspective; (2) involvement of community practices and practicing clinicians as research partners; (3) commitment to a transdisciplinary team process; (4) a multimethod approach; (5) openness to emerging insights; and (6) thinking big, but starting small.
Conclusions: A multimethod research process that involves collaboration between practicing clinicians, methodologists, and content experts can simultaneously test a priori hypotheses and discover important new insights about primary care practice.