March 2, 2018: Distributed Research Network Querying: A Status Report


Jeff Brown, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Population Medicine
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute

Lesley H. Curtis, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Center for Population Health Sciences, Duke School of Medicine
Director, Center for Pragmatic Health Systems Research, Duke Clinical Research Institute

Richard Platt, MD, MS
Professor and Chair, Department of Population Medicine
Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute


Distributed Research Network Querying: A Status Report


Pragmatic clinical trial; Clinical research; Distributed research network; Patient privacy; Electronic health record

Key Points

  • The Collaboratory Distributed Research Network (DRN) aims to facilitate multisite research collaborations and can be used for observational and interventional studies using Sentinel Distributed Dataset funded by NIH and other not-for-profit sponsors.
  • The DRN has analysis ready, standardized data sets available for rapid-response distributed querying available across data partners with over 90 million lives and detailed information for billions of medical encounters and outpatient pharmacy dispensings.
  • The cost of using a DRN is lower than for traditional randomized controlled trials.

Discussion Themes

Those researchers who are building a research area and exploring different kinds of data sources to answer their research questions could benefit from the Distributed Research Network (DRN).

DRNs make research more efficient while protecting privacy. Even if researchers have to share the individual level data, the network forces them to share only the minimum necessary data.

There are trade-offs in having real world evidence in real time. In pushing for real-time data when minimizing latency, one needs to strike a balance with data quality.


For information on the NIH Collaboratory Distributed Research Network, visit The Living Textbook


@PCTGrandRounds, @Collaboratory1, @lmhcurtis, @US_FDA, #pragmatictrials, #EHR, #pctGR

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