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