Initiative of German Practice-Based Research Networks – DESAM-ForNet
In Germany, medical care is largely provided in the general practitioner’s office. This is where people of all ages receive support in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of their medical conditions. An increasing number of patients are chronically ill or have several diseases, and diagnostic and therapeutic options are increasingly diverse and complex. Family doctors face the challenge of pursuing a holistic approach. They provide long-term support and help their patients navigate the health care system. However, as research results generated in controlled specialty settings are only partially transferable to patients in real-world practices, well-founded answers to important questions that are relevant to general practice are unavailable. Doctors and their patients need better evidence, and clinical researchers need support in carrying out research in primary care.
To strengthen the role of family medicine in Germany, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding a network of specially trained and qualified research practices to promote clinical research in primary care. In different regions, institutes of general practice at 23 university sites are collaborating closely with general practitioners and their practice teams in order to conduct pilot studies. As part of the funding project, six regional, practice-based research networks, and one coordination office, will be combined to form the Initiative of German Practice-Based Research Networks – DESAM-ForNet.
The coordination office for the Initiative of German Practice-Based Research Networks – DESAM-ForNet is jointly run by the German Foundation of General Practice and Family Medicine (DESAM) and the Organization for Networked Medical Research in Germany (TMF).
Within the Initiative of German Practice-Based Research Networks, the coordination office provides an infrastructure that the six participating networks can use to communicate and collaborate with each other. Overarching aspects, such as quality assurance, research practice training, data protection and IT infrastructure, are harmonized, and research competencies are developed to meet international standards for research in primary care. In this way, a sustainable foundation for practice-based research in Germany is established.
Practice-based Research Networks
Six research networks covering 23 university sites collaborate under the umbrella of the Initiative of DESAM-ForNet. In the past, practice-based research networks in Germany could not be set up on a permanent basis because they only existed as part of research projects of limited duration. Common standards and interoperability between networks will permit the creation of a sustainable foundation for practice-based research. The Initiative aims to accredit and qualify a total of 1700 research practices by the end of 2024.
To develop common procedures and standards for cross-network cooperation, all participating networks are involved in five working groups that deal with such overarching topics as IT infrastructure and data management, education and training, recruitment, accreditation and incentivization of research practices, participation of patients in the research process, and sustainability. Proposals from the working groups are voted on in the steering committee, which is the coordination office’s central decision-making body.
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The whole is more than the sum of its parts.