The Northeastern Ohio Network (NEON®) established in 1993, is the primary care practice-based research network of the Department of Family & Community Medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University. Its membership includes six family medicine residency sites, 19 residency faculty, 37 community-based family physicians, and 3 free clinics that provide primary care to the medically underserved. Each of the six residency programs is staffed by 4-6 faculty and 12-24 residents. The programs provide a wide variety of clinical services including inpatient care, obstetrics, pediatrics, and geriatrics. They serve a disproportionately large Medicaid population of patients. The community practices are located in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Their patient populations vary widely, but all practices provide acute and chronic care to patients of all ages. The clinics for the underserved provide acute and chronic care services to a population of vulnerable patients throughout the region. Together the NEON practices provide care to more than 100,000 patients per year.
NEON® is recognized as a practice-based research network by AHRQ and is a member of the Federation of PBRNs and the International Federation of Primary Care Research Networks. NEON® is a member of the Collaborative Ohio Inquiries Network (COIN), an ARHQ funded learning collaborative of PBRNs across Ohio.
NEON® is governed by an executive committee that meets monthly at NEOMED to discuss current and future studies. It is composed of a clinical director, six family medicine site research directors, a research coordinator, a community representative, and a representative from a medically underserved site. The administrative support for NEON® is provided by the Department of Family & Community Medicine Office of Research which includes the director, a research coordinator, grants administrator, senior research associate, and department assistant.
Experience in Conducting Research
The Northeastern Ohio Network® (NEON) collaborated with RAP on the landmark direct-observation of primary care study (DOPC) study and a study to replicate the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) in northeast Ohio. In addition, NEON has conducted 20 studies focusing on educational outcomes, 13 on health literacy and 8 on care to the underserved. Network leadership has decided on four focus areas for future studies – chronic pain management, health disparities, health literacy and the use of technology in health care delivery – and expects to spend about 75% of its efforts in these areas.
CTSA Resources and Collaborative Relationships
The NEON PBRN at NEOMED has a longstanding collaborative relationship with the CTSA-funded PBRN Shared Resource in at Case Western Reserve University. Examples of past collaborative studies have been the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) study and the Direct Observation of Primary Care (DOPC) study. NEON is currently working with CWRU faculty on a project entitled, “A Study of Physician-Patient Interactions in Primary Care.” NEOMED faculty also serve as key members of the planning committee of the Cleveland CTSA PBRN Shared Resource-sponsored Ohio PBRN Festival, and NEOMED faculty and NEON investigators lead workshops at the conference. In addition, Dr. Werner is currently engaged in community-based research initiatives at NEOMED.
Regulatory and IRB Resources
The NEOMED IRB reviews NEON’s research protocols and serves as a resource for investigators when questions arise. In addition, the NEOMED office of research and sponsored programs serves as a resource for any grant-funded studies. A number of additional IRBs become involved in reviewing PBRN protocols if members of their faculty are involved in the study in question, and IRB expedited reviews are provided at NEOMED’s partner institutions including Summa Health System, Barberton Hospital, Akron General Medical Center, Aultman Hospital, St. Elizabeth Health Center, Northside Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron, the University of Akron and Kent State University.
NEOMED’s NEON PBRN practices contribute data to Explorys and they have access IT resources through the CWRU PBRN Shared Resource. In addition, NEON practices are being brought together through a Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) which is enabling the development of a Health Information Exchange to improve the safety, quality, and efficiency of healthcare through the efficient application of health information technology.