The era of big data, loosely defined as the development and analysis of large or complex data sets, brings new opportunities to empower patients and their families to generate, collect, and use their health information for both clinical and research purposes. In 2013 the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute launched a large national research network, PCORnet, that includes both clinical and patient-powered research networks. This article describes these networks, their potential uses, and the challenges they face. The networks are engaging patients, family members, and caregivers in four key ways: contributing data securely, with privacy protected; including diverse and representative groups of patients in research; prioritizing research questions, participating in research, and disseminating results; and participating in the leadership and governance of patient-powered research networks. If technical, regulatory, and organizational challenges can be overcome, PCORnet will allow research to be conducted more efficiently and cost-effectively and results to be disseminated quickly back to patients, clinicians, and delivery systems to improve patient health.
Health Aff (Millwood). 2014 Jul;33(7):1212-9