PCORI Approves $23 million for Seven COVID-19 Research Studies

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has approved $22.6 million in funding for seven studies assessing various healthcare approaches to improve outcomes among people infected by the novel coronavirus and lessen the effects of COVID-19 on patients, healthcare workers and communities.

These latest studies will provide useful information on various approaches to delivering care during a pandemic and achieving optimal outcomes. Approvals include a study comparing the impacts on patients from state and local pandemic mitigation policies, another comparing education strategies for infection control in nursing homes, and several evaluating whether telehealth approaches achieve comparable or better outcomes for patients. Other studies will pay particular attention to healthcare access and disparities in outcomes among racial and ethnic minorities and underserved populations.

"These comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies on optimizing healthcare and health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic complement and enhance the research and development of new therapies and vaccines against the novel coronavirus," noted PCORI executive director Nakela L. Cook, MD, MPH.

"While work continues to develop effective therapies and vaccines against COVID-19, it is equally vital to understand the impact of adaptations to health care delivery implemented in response to the pandemic and strategies to achieve the best possible outcomes during this time of crisis, particularly among underserved populations," Cook said. "That is why PCORI acted quickly to make research funding available to strengthen our understanding of different approaches to mitigate COVID-19's impact and provide evidence to inform clinical and public health responses, decision making and planning."

The newly approved studies are:

$5 million for the University of California at San Francisco study comparing the impacts of COVID-19-related policy decisions in seven different states on people's health and financial well-being, focusing particularly on racial and ethnic minorities. The team will recruit participants through PCORnet®, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, a PCORI-funded initiative.

$4.9 million for a RAND Corporation study comparing the effectiveness of strategies to improve the mental and physical well-being of health care workers. The project compares the usual method of care versus a peer-led program called Stress First Aid. Stress First Aid entails supportive actions that can be delivered by individuals without mental health training.

$3 million for a Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University study examining the comparative effectiveness of different approaches to providing primary care during the widespread transition from in-person to remote visits during the pandemic. The study examines how telemedicine is offered to and experienced by diverse populations as well as telemedicine's effectiveness on outcomes and disparities among people with chronic conditions. The study uses PCORnet® to examine the impact of telemedicine on patient-centered outcomes and disparities in outcomes for patients with chronic disease at many clinics.

$2.5 million for a University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine project to evaluate the use of COVID Watch, an automated home monitoring program for people with COVID-19 self-isolating at home, with particular focus on whether it reduces disparities in care among Black and Latino patients. The study will assess COVID Watch with and without the use of fingertip pulse oximetry, which measures a person's oxygen levels.

$2.5 million for a State University of New York study to compare a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) group intervention via teleconference with an MBSR mobile app in reducing worry and improving other mental health outcomes among adults living in low-income racial and ethnic minority neighborhoods who lack access to mental health care.

$2.5 million for a University of Southern California study exploring the comparative effectiveness of housing and support services collocated in group housing facilities versus independent housing located throughout the community in combination with mobile case management services to determine whether either is more likely to influence COVID-19 -related health behaviors and improve quality of life among people experiencing homelessness.

$2.3 million for a Penn State University Hershey Medical Center study on infection control in nursing homes that will assess Project ECHO, which enables nursing home staffs and university-based experts to discuss guidelines and best practices through interactive virtual sessions, against the provision of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nursing home infection control webinar series to nursing home staffs.

PCORI funded these studies through a special allocation of funds to confront the national health crisis posed by COVID-19. In addition, PCORI swiftly provided researchers with ongoing PCORI-funded studies and other research-related projects with PCORI funding to adapt or extend their ongoing studies and projects to respond to COVID-19-related evidence gaps. To date, PCORI has provided $32 million for enhancements to ongoing projects for this purpose.

Also, PCORI has funded the HERO Registry, an initiative to recruit those working in healthcare settings to share their experiences in confronting the pandemic so that we can learn how to better protect such workers in future pandemics as well as mitigate effects in the current crisis.

Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

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