Research Topics

Historically, APBRN's focus has been on electronic data collection and transfer from remote sites, and translating research into practice at the point of care with the aid of PDA and web-based technology. Any topic of particular relevance to primary care in community-based settings will be considered for study, ranging from quality improvement to disease-specific protocols. Research  proposals originated by member physicians are especially encouraged. To propose a study or idea, please contact the Coordinating Center to request a worksheet that can help you think through the process of designing a practice based project.

Research Projects

New! RDOC - Rural Diabetes Online Care

NIH / NIDDK (2005-2009)

RDOC is an online CME intervention to improve the clinical management of patients with diabetes in rural communities throughout the South. Developed by an experienced and dedicated multidisciplinary team of researchers, it was carefully designed to deliver evidence-based information and tools that are useful in daily practice. Physicians and staff can not only benefit from the study’s content and activities, but can also earn a full year’s worth of no-cost CME/CEU credit and up to $500 (one physician per practice). RDOC is only open to primary care physicians in select rural counties in select Southern states. For more information, please visit RDOC at and click on "FAQ" in the lower right-hand corner.


Ongoing / Recent

ePCRN - electronic Primary Care Research Network

NIH Roadmap Initiative (2005-2008)

The creation of a national electronic network connecting physicians, medical centers and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the aim of a new initiative involving the APBRN. The project is part of NIH’s Roadmap for medical research, a series of initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed movement of research discoveries from bench to bedside. It is funded by a three-year grant awarded to the Federation of Practice Based Research Networks (FPBRN), in association with the American Academy of Family Physicians and the University of Minnesota. The APBRN was one of only 10 networks initially selected to participate in building the (ePCRN). This electronic infrastructure will potentially connect every primary care physician in the nation with researchers at universities and NIH. The goal is to accelerate the pace of discovery and application of knowledge to develop new primary care prevention strategies, diagnostics and treatments.



Testing PDA-based Interventions for Smoking and Unhealthy Diet
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation "Prescription for Health" Initiative (2003-2005)

This study tested PDA-based protocols to guide brief interventions for tobacco use and unhealthy diet, and assessed the utility of using community health advisors (CHAs) to support patients in making physician-recommended behavior changes. Using PDAs, physicians were guided through brief "5-A" (Ask, Assess, Advise, Assist, Arrange) interventions during routine office visits. The protocols proved an easy-to-use tools for promoting healthy behaviors that can be easily integrated into daily practice and adapted to address a variety of health problems. The CHAs served as liaisons between physicians and local health organizations and assisted patients in following through on their doctors' advice to quit smoking and/or lose weight. Eight physicians in five local practices participated. Over half of the 200 patients who received interventions expressed a need for support and information  far beyond that received during brief office visits.


Building the Alabama Practice Based Research Network

Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (2002-2004)

For this project, APBRN received infrastructure and research support to enhance its capacity to conduct research and to translate research findings into practice using PDAs. Infrastructure goals were to recruit new members; assess members' technical capacity and needs, and practice population demographics; provide assistance and training in PDA use in clinical practice; and assist in achieving IRB training. Research goals were to test the feasibility of using PDAs for data collection and as an aid to point-of-care assessment and counseling, addressing questions such as: What level of time and resources are required to conduct clinical data collection using PDAs? What are the barriers and how can they be overcome? Does this type of technical assistance create a teachable moment for the patient that could enhance patient compliance with physician recommendations?  The overarching question was: Will use of PDAs aid physicians' in delivering health messages, and result in improved patient health? Using the 5-A model, PDA intervention protocols were developed based on the clinical practice guidelines for tobacco use and obesity (the two target behaviors) and field tested by 16 APBRN member physicians, who delivered the interventions to over 800 patients.

Early (Pilot Studies & Assessments)
Smoking Cessation Counseling Practices
In fall 2001, APBRN members piloted a survey of smoking cessation counseling practices which served as the basis for a statewide survey of primary care physicians by the Alabama Tobacco Free Families Program (ATOFF), an NCI-funded research study at UAB. Both the APBRN and statewide surveys indicated a strong need for, and interest in, CME on this topic. As a result, ATOFF launched a statewide training program that ultimately reached over 2,000 healthcare providers throughout the state.

Information Technology Resource Survey (Summer 2000)
Graduate students from UAB's Health Informatics program conducted field surveys of APBRN member physician's offices. The purpose was twofold: 1) To determine what resources were available and/or needed at each site to facilitate electronic data transfer from clinic to coordinating center, and 2) To gather basic demographic information about the patient populations being served by member physicians. Data collected formed the foundation of the APBRN's web-based electronic data collection and transfer system.

Research Topics and Training Needs Assessments (Fall-Winter 2000)
A survey was conducted to determine the research interests and training needs of APBRN member physicians. The purpose was to ascertain which areas of study would be of most value, as well as physicians' level of experience in conducting research. The topics of most immediate concern were obesity and smoking cessation. Pilot studies were subsequently undertaken, and research methods training modules designed with the first one delivered at the 2001 APBRN midwinter meeting.



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APBRN Coordinating Center
Department of Family and Community Medicine
Division of Research
University of Alabama at Birmingham
930 20th Street South Room 307
Birmingham, Alabama 35205
Phone: 205.934.9376
Fax: 205.934-9398

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