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The future of family medicine can be shaped through collaborations between clinicians and academics. The term “Practice Based Learning Networks” (PBLNs) has been proposed for key partnerships; PBLNs use electronic medical record (EMR) data and evidence-based strategies to improve care as part of Learning Health Systems. Clinical and administrative leadership, engagement, ongoing relationships, and data stewardship are needed to drive change. Ontario currently has seven PBLNs, six affiliated with a University Department of Family Medicine and one in the Alliance for Healthier Communities. We have formed the Primary care Ontario Practice-based Learning and Research Network, POPLAR.


POPLAR is harmonizing data collection and processing into a provincial data platform, allowing standardized and efficient province-wide reporting of indicators. POPLAR is also coordinating efforts to enable meaningful analytics, implement clinical research and foster quality improvement initiatives. Setting: Ontario, Canada; primary care practices across the province.


Ontario’s patients.


Funded by Ontario’s provincial government through the primary care research-policy partnership INSPIRE-PHC, we are combining EMR data of over 1.5 million patients receiving care from the 1,000+ Ontario family physicians participating in their respective PBLN, resulting in the largest source of readily available EMR data in the province. POPLAR’s governance includes the following Committees: Steering, Executive, Clinical Research, Data Management, Data Access, Stakeholder Engagement, Indigenous Governance and Sovereignty. A Governance Working Group provides recommendations on the overall structure. POPLAR data supports a QI Dashboard initiative, led by quality improvement and implementation science experts. 


A person-centered Learning Health System requires data, research, and quality improvement, embedded and exchanged at sites where care is provided. POPLAR provides value by supporting all three.

Upon completion of this session, participants should be able to:

  1. To learn about POPLAR, its aims and objectives
  2. To discover what participation in a POPLAR Network can do for practices and patients
  3. To explore our planning process for the next five years

Thumbnail image of poster: POPLAR, the Primary Care Ontario Practice-Based Learning and Research Network. Image is hyperlinked to a larger PDF version.