An essential component of the Alliance’s LHS is the EPIC Practice-Based Learning Network (PBLN), which was launched in November 2020.
A PBLN is a group of primary healthcare providers who work together to explore challenges, develop and share innovations, and use their practice-based data to measure drive improvement. Members of a PBLN support each other through mentorship and knowledge-sharing, and they participate in collective and independent research and quality improvement projects.
The EPIC PBLN consists mostly of providers working in Alliance-member organizations. It exists alongside seven regionally based PBLNS that are affiliated with academic institutions around the province. Like them, the EPIC PBLN has the potential to provide knowledge and decision support to Ontario Health Teams. However, it stands out because it is interprofessional and province-wide in scope, reflecting the diversity of our membership. It is not affiliated with a university but is grounded in community. And it has a mandate to advance health equity.
The EPIC PBLN is built on the foundation of a common EMR, shared data standards, and data aggregation through our Business Intelligence Reporting Tool (BIRT). This means it is able to generate a robust body of consistent, comparable, and combinable data. Such data can be used to look for patterns and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions through large-scale, real-world clinical trials.
POPLAR: A Network of Networks
EPIC and six other provincial Primary Care Research and Leaning Networks (PBRLNs) have coalesced to enhance our efficiency and potential for impact. Together, we form the Primary Care Ontario Learning and Research (POPLAR) Network. And soon, the electronic medical record (EMR) data of over 1.5 million patients of primary care providers participating in these networks will be merged in POPLAR to allow for very meaningful evaluations of primary care for the purpose of research, quality improvement, and planning.
With the approval of our membership, the Alliance has signed a data-sharing agreement with POPLAR. EMR data for all members who participate in our Business Intelligence Reporting Tool (BIRT) is now being shared, via BIRT, with POPLAR.
POPLAR is a data safe-haven for all of Ontario’s PBLNs, bringing together practice data from all primary care sectors, linked to health system usage data from ICES. This data is always de-identified, securely stored, and its access is highly controlled. In order to access it for learning and improvement projects, POPLAR members will have to submit a formal request involving a rigorous evaluation of the project. To be approved, the applicant must demonstrate that their project meets ethical guidelines.