Objective: The authors describe the APA Practice Research Network (PRN), a national research initiative that ultimately will engage 1,000 practicing psychiatrists in collaborative clinical and services research. The PRN is designed to generate practice-relevant information and to inform future service delivery, policy, and financing decisions pertinent to psychiatry.
Method: The authors review the relative strengths and limitations of practice-based research compared with other widely used research methods. They also describe the structure of the PRN and its procedures for recruiting network members and for identifying and developing specific network studies. The three primary sources of data for the PRN are 1) the biannual National Survey of Psychiatric Practice, which provides not only a mechanism for randomly recruiting the two-thirds of network participants who are not volunteers but also a baseline for assessing the generalizability of PRN findings; 2) separate biannual studies of psychiatric patients and treatments to characterize the network patient/treatment denominator, which is used to monitor trends in psychiatric practice and plan network studies; and 3) specific studies.
Results: Pilot data from the PRN have yielded detailed information on the diagnostic and clinical characteristics of 725 patients and on the treatments provided by network psychiatrists.
Conclusions: The APA PRN offers a powerful complement to traditional clinical and health services research approaches. The PRN will help psychiatry improve its ability to meet patients needs in a context of rapidly evolving scientific and clinical progress and legislative and economic forces affecting health care delivery.