Podcast Blog: Reflections on the NIH Collaboratory: Highlights from the Past and Hopes for the Future

A podcast discussion with Drs. Adrian Hernandez and Kevin Weinfurt

NIH Collaboratory investigators and podcast moderators Drs. Adrian Hernandez and Kevin Weinfurt took time on the latest podcast to discuss the important work done by the NIH Collaboratory this year and what’s next.

Dr. Weinfurt spoke about his excitement to begin seeing results from Collaboratory Demonstration Projects in the coming years, and how those results will be received by various stakeholders. Specifically, he referenced groundbreaking results presented at a recent Grand Rounds by Dr. Greg Simon on the Suicide Prevention Outcomes Trial (SPOT), a project looking at the use of machine learning to predict patient behaviors and outcomes. Dr. Simon recently spoke on the podcast about the implications of using computer algorithms not only to prevent suicides, but also in broader healthcare settings to predict a variety of patient outcomes.

Dr. Hernandez noted that the Demonstration Projects to date have been truly pragmatic trials, and could offer valuable insights to inform the next wave of projects in the coming year. Dr. Weinfurt agreed that investigators could learn from these original Demonstration Projects, as well as reference The Living Textbook, to develop more mature research questions in the future. In particular, he said he looks forward to moving in the direction of “A versus B testing” in future trials.

Both Drs. Hernandez and Weinfurt said they expect that the Revised Common Rule will present a challenge for the upcoming year, as the research community explores how to run trials within the new regulations. Dr. Hernandez noted that there has often been an emphasis on the front half of the trials, and less clarity around the back half, when the data is collected and analyzed.  Refocusing on this later portion of trials, he said, will be crucial in order to ensure data is disseminated properly and ultimately used to create real change for patients.

In terms of expectations for the future, Dr. Hernandez said he hopes that there will be more data streams available, as companies like Amazon begin to move into the health data space. Both he and Dr. Weinfurt shared a hope that health systems will ultimately be able to pull data from a number of sources, from electronic health records (EHRs) to wearable devices, creating richer data sets to examine outcomes. In addition, Dr. Weinfurt proposed that moving forward, the NIH Collaboratory should include more educational opportunities for the research community on pragmatic trials, in order to teach investigators not only how to run these trials but also what to do with the results.

The NIH Collaboratory looks forward to presenting regular educational opportunities, in the form of weekly Grand Rounds presentations and monthly podcasts.

Read the full podcast transcript here.