Background and objective: Family physicians (FP) play a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of health problems in the community and for evidence-based guidance clinical research must be based on primary care data. This paper analyses the state-of-the-art approaches to collection of data and the building of databases in family practice.
Methods: Experience in the Netherlands in family practice-based research networks (PBRNs) is explored in registering and analyzing primary care data, illustrated with four examples of PBRN studies.
Results: PBRNs bring together practices and FPs with a research interest to collect data and pursue research under routine patient care conditions. This directs research at relevant questions of family practice. Important features of success are practitioners' ownership of data and the use of data in improving care of patients in the participating practices. International standardization of terminology and definitions in the international classification of primary care improves the scientific quality of data recorded in registration networks and PBRNs.
Conclusions: Through primary care registration networks and PBRNs it is possible to tap-in unselected care of patients and at the same time produce scientifically rigorous data. This enables research that represents the realities of primary care with valid data.