Title

Supporting Clinical Research Practices

Abstract

The notion of developing a network of general practices capable of undertaking clinical research is both intriguing and elusive. This paper outlines efforts to support research practices as an integral part of the Notre Dame PHC RED research capacity building program and indicates some cautious optimism is warranted.

The recruitment and support of three general practices involved in the Fremantle Primary Prevention study as well as seven practices involved in a chlamydia prevalence study among young men attending Perth metropolitan general practitioners is outlined.

Recruitment of practices involved a consideration of practice size, convenience, geographic spread and, most of all, key personnel in the practices interested in and capable of driving the research agenda. Some general practices welcomed the idea of integrating evidence-based medicine into their every day clinical work while others felt it was too time consuming and costly. Financial support to help defray costs and research-induced loss of income formed a key plank in convincing some. Recruitment also involved a lot of negotiation, some gentle persuasion and occasional opportunism-all tempered with the knowledge that rejection was often likely but not inevitably so.

Patients attending research practices are generally supportive and proud of their doctors' willingness to challenge and question the medicine they practice. The process of developing research practices is highly dependent on team work with practice nurses and management staff as well as interested GPs and Registrars playing key roles. In addition, infrastructure development to support recall systems, disease registers and data transfer is also vital.

General practice is constantly striving to increase and consolidate its research base. For this to succeed and develop, a critical mass of research oriented practitioners needs to be nurtured and supported. The time, effort and money spent are likely to improve the research capacity of primary care in the future. The potential offered by network linkages with other research practices is another dimension that deserves support.

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