“Once you put quality measures in front of people — for example, showing your current rate of patients who are eligible for aspirin who are actually on aspirin — that in and of itself drives change and is probably where we see the biggest benefit,” Kho explains.
The team also built a novel data reporting system, hosted at Northwestern, that enables the independent small practices to dynamically track and compare their quality measures through electronic feeds of EHR data.
It’s part of the reason why, beyond the immediate impact of Healthy Hearts in the Heartland, Kho and his collaborators see the study also kickstarting related research in the future.
“We hope that this opens the door to continue engaging with that much broader community of providers, rather than just those who are within large centers,” Kho says. “Both in terms of the relationships and the tools that we’re building, I think this can greatly increase the efficiency of how we do future research and engage unseen populations.”
Beyond the clinical impact of this approach, there’s also a bonus benefit to conducting research that so closely collaborates with different communities. For investigators like Kho and Kandula, it’s also intensely invigorating to their lives as clinicians and scientists.
“Community-engaged research is really what keeps me going. I find it to be a great antidote to burnout,” Kandula says. “To be able to work with these wonderful partners who are excited about the work that we do, and to see the way that it impacts people’s lives, has been so incredibly rewarding.”
For more information about community-engaged research at Feinberg, view the latest report from the Center for Community Health.