Veteran researchers share the benefits, challenges of multicenter radiology research

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Multicenter research studies, published collaborations between at least three medical centers, are becoming increasingly common in some healthcare specialties—but not radiology. A team of researchers explored this trend, surveying published academics about such studies, and published their findings in Academic Radiology.

“Multicenter radiology research (MRR)-related publications have not grown to the same degree as other specialties,” wrote Brittany Z. Dashevsky MD, DPhil, department of radiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and colleagues. “Potential reasons for this include the infrastructure, personnel, and policy requirements for interinstitutional image sharing; protection of patient privacy, and confidentiality according to state and federal guidelines; data access and storage, and long-term maintenance of imaging data. There is a need to increase the number of MRR studies, given their potential impact on clinical practice.”

Dashevsky et al. reached out to radiologists with experience taking part in MRR, receiving 23 completed surveys. Seventy-six percent of respondents had served as a “primary investigator” on at least one MRR-related study.

The survey data revealed that 100 percent of MRR participants consider the increased sample size to be an advantage of such research, and 91 percent said improved generalizability was an advantage. There are also other benefits to consider, the authors noted.

“MRR also increases access to shared resources, as cited by 44 percent of our respondents,” they wrote. “Several subspecialties have further emphasized the importance of including biostatisticians, epidemiologists, research coordinators, and other experts in the research group. These experts may establish a collaborative network allowing further resource sharing, but, more importantly, may develop research infrastructure that can be maintained and utilized for future research endeavors.”

The survey also asked about barriers to completing MRR. External funding, agreeing on a central picture archiving and communication system and implementing a shared central database were common answers. And how do participants overcome these issues to still achieve their goals? Seventy-four percent of respondents said they motivate their staff and 70 percent mentioned strong leadership.

“When developing the research team, our survey suggests that a strong leadership, motivated staff, open communication, coordination between administrators at the institutional and multisite levels, and a clear division of responsibilities are essential for a productive collaboration,” the authors wrote.