Conference report: NAPCRG (North American Primary Care Research Group) Annual Meeting 2015

43rd NAPCRG Annual Meeting, October 24-28 2015, Cancun, Mexico

So, folks, it’s time for another conference blog. This time, I am reporting back from the heavily beach-endowed Cancun in Mexico, where the North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG – pronounced possibly erroneously in our circles as “knap-crag”) were convening for their annual four-day bash. Judging from the amount of beach wear sported by conference goers, organisers had rather more than half an eye on white sands and azure seas when choosing this location. It was hot, it was humid, it was hectic. So what were the highlights?

American conferences are different from UK conferences in quite a number of ways, as you can imagine. Here in the UK, we don’t start enthusiastically at 7am, we tend to have many more plenaries where (typically terribly distinguished) people give broad overviews of their research, and we are certainly nowhere near as enthusiastic about the merits of poster sessions. At NAPCRG this year there were three plenary sessions for all: the very funny Michael LeFevre from the University of Missouri-Columbia on the challenges of getting research into practice, a lively panel presentation on international perspectives on end-of-life care, and the very committed Carmen Garcia-Pena on the developing primary care research scene in Mexico. However, it’s in the parallel sessions where most of the action happens.

I was really interested to see the work of the team at University of California San Francisco’s Center for Excellence in Primary Care (CEPC), aimed at improving and understanding the quality of care provided to disadvantaged groups as well as patient engagement in service design and delivery. The enthusiasm and passion of speakers including Nwando Olayiwola and Anjana Sharma really shone through.  It’s great to see a continuing interest and concern for inequities in health and health care at the conference, particularly as the US health care system is not exactly the best in the world for disadvantaged and hard to reach groups as we all know. Another topic which caught my eye was methodological: mixed methods approaches are, as you all know, an increasing presence on our research scene, and in the US I would argue they are up there at the head of the field in developments. There were a number of mixed method studies in the programme, but I particularly enjoyed the session from Timothy Guetterman (University of Michigan) on the current use and future directions of joint displays: he quite rightly pointed out we could and should be doing a lot more to develop innovative approaches to data integration (I had a small rant about just this in the BJGP recently). The poster sessions were, as ever, really lively and engaging with a fantastic variety of work on display. In fact, I just counted 387 posters in the programme, so I might not have quite got an in-depth handle on all of them – but multimorbidity, patient engagement, urgent and emergency care, and health care organisation and delivery were all well represented.

Trying to pick up on dominant concerns and themes is difficult in such a large setting. However, I noted last time and I will note again that the UK primary care research scene compares incredibly favourably with that of the US. With such a proliferation of providers, services and settings, much US work remains local and inward-looking. There are a large numbers of service developments with little rigorous evaluation, many places repeating work completed elsewhere but within their own particular system at a small scale, and perhaps a lack of ambition about bigger scale studies generalisable to clinical and service developments in other countries. Many of the biggest trials are taking place in the UK and the Netherlands. Canadian and Australian attendees, too, often seem far better connected to the global concerns of how to deliver the highest quality of primary care. So it’s great to have the chance to have these dialogues, and come together as a global body of researchers in such a friendly and enquiring environment to keep pushing up the quality of our research.
Next year, it is in Colorado. Note to UK attendees: rather unfortunately, the hotel in Colorado Springs is called The Broadmoor, but I have been reassured it has no connection with the well-known psychiatric high security hospital in Berkshire, England. I hope.
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