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Upstate NY Emergency Departments Join Forces for Research

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The University of Rochester Medical Center is leading a new network of hospital emergency departments across upstate New York, to strengthen and expand clinical and biomedical research.

The collaboration will bring together six institutions and form a platform on which researchers can recruit patients for clinical studies from a diverse population, conduct epidemiological investigations, and build a better system for collecting and analyzing data and health outcomes in the region.

“The strength of this network lies in the diversity of the institutions, which serve a mix of urban, suburban and rural patients, and in the personnel and leadership,” said Thomas Richardson, M.B.A., Ph.D., director of Emergency Medicine research at the University of Rochester. Richardson is also principal investigator and director of the upstate network. “The network team also possesses significant diversity in terms of their skills, education, training, areas of expertise, and current research portfolios.”

“The fact that we are joining forces to perform research, in spite of the competitive nature of medicine, is a tremendous statement about our commitment to attract the best researchers and funding to upstate New York,” Richardson added.

Emergency departments are an excellent venue for clinical research because they treat an estimated 113 million patients per year nationwide. Some patients use emergency departments as their primary source of health care, while others are referred to emergency rooms to gain access to 24-hour care, better technology, or hospital specialists.

However, in 2006 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that despite the high volume of patient traffic, emergency departments lack a well-coordinated research effort. The IOM called for an immediate improvement to the infrastructure of emergency research. Heeding to that call, the National Institutes of Health recommended that the existing Clinical and Translational Research Institutes (CTSIs) should form an emergency department network to serve as a vehicle for research. Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry was chosen as one of the first CTSIs in October 2006.

Sandra Schneider, M.D., professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Rochester and co-principal investigator, has been instrumental in the effort to establish a national research network. Schneider also serves as secretary and treasurer of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  “This is an exciting time for emergency research,” Schneider said. “Rochester and our upstate collaborators are leading the way by developing the first regional network of emergency departments. Eventually we hope to create a national network that will decrease the time needed to gather essential data and to enable us to study diseases and injuries that occur less frequently.”

Already, members of the upstate New York emergency group have begun to address some of the negative but erroneous perceptions that research cannot be done in a chaotic ED environment, Richardson said. For example, URMC and SUNY Upstate Medical Center developed an alternative for enrolling patients in studies by discarding the traditional model that relied on the presence of a research study nurse. Instead, they trained other employees to act as “patient enrollers” to obtain consent, collect and process samples, and do follow-up interviews.

The network recently received $56,000 in startup funding from the University of Rochester CTSI and the Foundation for Healthy Living.  Emergency department chairs and research directors plan to meet in Rochester on October 30 to begin work. The network is part of the Upstate New York Consortium for Healthcare Research and Quality (UNYCHRQ) and the Upstate New York Translational Research Network (UNYTRN). Partners on this grant include: Albany Medical College; State University of New York, University at Buffalo; State University of New York, Upstate Medical University; Bassett HealthCare; Guthrie Health; and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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