Since 1996, the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health has been developing and operating the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network, a multidisciplinary team of researchers devoted to evaluating and improving the quality
of primary health care. ACORN is dedicated to the longitudinal study and improvement of primary health care for the public.
The network’s objectives are to provide observational data on important trends and patterns in primary care practice in Virginia and serve as a research platform for performing clinical trials that test the effectiveness of interventions to improve quality and health outcomes. The information is intended to help clinicians improve care practices; help policy-makers better understand and evaluate primary care in Virginia; provide researchers with a unique longitudinal data set for observational and experimental studies; and help educate the general public.
ACORN is one of 100 practice-based research networks around the country that have been funded for infrastructure development by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The ACORN effort also has received funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration. ACORN is a member of the Federation of Practice-Based Research Networks and participates nationally and internationally in research conferences, symposia and peer-reviewed publications concerned with health services and primary care research. The faculty members responsible for coordinating the ACORN research effort include co-directors Rebecca S. Etz, Ph.D., Alexander H. Krist, M.D., M.P.H. and Stephen F. Rothemich, M.D., M.S.
Since its inception, ACORN has conducted a number of innovative research initiatives aimed at health promotion and disease prevention, quality of care and patient safety.
Dr. Rothemich, principal investigator funded under a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar award, conducted a study at 12 practice sites within ACORN to test the frequency with which primary care physicians offer smoking-cessation counseling when smoking status is assessed routinely along with other vital signs.
In addition, Dr. Alexander Krist and colleagues conducted a pilot study that sought to evaluate whether patients and physicians would use a cancer preventive care Web site prior to a health maintenance examination. Ultimately, the Web site has the potential to improve the delivery of cancer preventive services.