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Policy Spotlight: One-on-One with PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook and Alan Weil, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs
Watch the full interview below.

PCORI Executive Director Nakela L. Cook, MD, MPH, shared her thoughts on PCORI’s role and the rich potential of its next phase during an hourlong interview with Alan Weil, JD, MPP, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, in May. Cook's interview was part of a series of “Policy Spotlight” events in which influential, national thought leaders contribute to the journal’s ongoing coverage of health policy issues.

Research Done Differently®

Weil kicked off the interview by asking how patient-centered outcomes research, which PCORI describes as “Research Done Differently®,” is “different from healthcare and health services research [that is] done the same old way?” In response, Cook focused on the key role of engagement, with patients and all of PCORI’s stakeholders, throughout the research process.

“By engagement, we mean having patients and other individuals that are part of the healthcare system as partners in what we do,” Cook said, “not just patients as potentially the participants in a research study, but actually individuals that help us talk about what's important for that patient to make the right decision…to have better information for the decisions that they're facing in health care.”

She also noted the influence PCORI’s approach to patient-centered outcomes research has had on the larger health research landscape: “That patient perspective has become, I think, much more front and center and top of mind for many research funders…academic organizations and others that are setting up research enterprises are starting to think about how they create the opportunity to engage with patients and surrounding communities in order to have a more effective research enterprise.”

Achieving Health Equity

The topic of health equity, a core element of PCORI’s recently approved strategic plan, was another major focus. During the strategic planning process, PCORI solicited input from a broad range of stakeholders, and health equity clearly stood out as a critical issue facing the nation.

One that PCORI is particularly well suited to address, Cook said. “We heard front and center that health equity was an important component for PCORI to take on,” she explained. “And in many ways, we've always thought that patient centered CER is uniquely tailored to address health equity, because it really speaks to an individual, their specific circumstances and the situations that they live in and how that affects their health,” Cook added.

Looking ahead, Cook stressed the need for continuous learning and innovation. “That’s what I want to see PCORI continuing to push the needle on,” she said. Cook went on to explain that she wants “PCORI to be [a] place of innovation…with patients, with caregivers, with health systems, with payers in ways that actually allow us to generate those unique outcomes that are really critical for parts of the population that haven't had that type of attention and focus when it comes down to health.”

PCORI [can be a] place of innovation [that allows] us to generate those unique outcomes that are really critical for parts of the population that haven't had that type of attention and focus when it comes down to health.

Nakela L. Cook, MD, MPH PCORI Executive Director

Partnership through PCORnet®

The interview also covered the promise of PCORnet®—the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, an integrated partnership of clinical research networks funded by PCORI—in facilitating more efficient research that is national in scope. More than 50 health systems, representing over 30 million patients nationwide, have partnered through PCORnet.

Cook expressed excitement that this “network of health networks” is now becoming an important resource for generating “real world evidence” and her hopes that by harnessing health data “from encounters that happen every day, across the country, and in different settings across the country,” important research questions from different communities around the country can be addressed.

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