Safety Net Infrastructure Initiative

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Safety Net health centers are a critical component of the health care system and have the potential to benefit greatly from participation in research and translation of evidence into practice. This is especially true following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the transformation of primary care systems. However, providers in community health centers often lack the infrastructure, resources, and skills necessary to lead or collaborate in research. To address these gaps, the Safety Net Research Infrastructure Initiative of the Harvard Catalyst Community Health Innovation and Research Program (HC-CHIRP) sought to provide resources and training that would begin to build individual provider and organizational capacity to engage in research and quality improvement initiatives.

Following a pilot phase based at the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) in 2010-11, the Safety Net Initiative (SNI) invited the participation of three safety net community health centers in the Boston and Greater Boston area. “Champions” representing the Dimock Center in Roxbury, the Lynn Community Health Center, and the Upham’s Corner Health Center in Dorchester joined the initiative which commenced in May 2011.

Throughout its first year, the SNI offered the following:

  1. Protected time to provider and staff champions to engage in research activities
  2. Group learning sessions to facilitate engagement in primary care research
  3. Individual mentoring and consultation in developing research partnerships, research methods and design, data coding and cleaning, data analysis, proposal development, dissemination, and the translation of research evidence into clinical practice

Initiative activities include monthly learning sessions as well as working on collaborative grants across sites. The Safety Net Initiative also worked on developing a resource for building research infrastructure at community health centers over the course of Year 1. This 8-module primary care research toolkit is hosted at the Harvard Catalyst website, and can be found here.

Year 2 of the Initiative (started May 1, 2012) will focus on utilizing the EHR for translational research. We will continue our partnership with our three health centers towards the following goals:

  • Building CHC provider/staff capacity to engage in translational research with external collaborators
  • Enhancing CHC EHR infrastructure
  • Enhancing champion capacity to navigate EHR system
  • Improving translation of evidence into clinical practice

One of the highlights of Year 2 is the conference the Initiative is planning in collaboration with the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers focusing on “Building QI and Research Capacity for Clinical Innovations in Practice” to be held in Shrewsbury, MA in October, 2012.

Please click here for  a summary of accomplishments from the first year of the Safety Net Initiative.