Building Research Infrastructure and Capacity for Largest Federally Qualified Health Center in the Nation

The Problem

AltaMed Health Services Corporation (AltaMed), the largest Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the nation, has delivered quality care to underserved communities in Southern California for more than 40 years. AltaMed’s unique characteristics – including its range of services, diverse patient population, broad market penetration, health information technology (HIT) capabilities, and commitment to excellence and innovation for quality outcomes – uniquely positions AltaMed as an attractive and valuable partner to researchers.

AltaMed’s research infrastructure, however, was beset by inconsistencies including a lack of regular communication and standardized procedures to review and approve research proposal requests that were further compounded by an inability to track and monitor such requests. This lack of internal communication led to AltaMed researchers being unaware of the types of studies that were being approved and conducted within the organization.

The Solution

AltaMed partnered with COPE Health Solutions to strengthen its research infrastructure to increase organizational capacity and broaden its appeal to academic and other institutions as a desirable research partner. COPE Health Solutions’ Translational Research team applied a rigorous two-phase approach to assess AltaMed’s current research policies to identify inefficiencies and service gaps in handling incoming research requests, and worked closely with AltaMed’s leadership team to develop standardized research planning protocols and tools.

Further, the Translational Research team established structured processes to centralize the management of research requests by creating a new AltaMed Research Committee. Internal staff were trained to manage incoming requests and to ensure appropriate communication between relevant study stakeholders. The Translational Research team continues to provide project management support and recommendations of research proposal requests to AltaMed’s Research Committee.

Highlights of our approach:

  • Systematic assessment of AltaMed’s existing research policies and procedures to identify all process variations and gaps in evaluating research requests through a company-wide survey and key informant interviews
  • Worked with AltaMed team to create prioritized project selection criteria and standardized budgeting for research studies to ensure project activities are covered while still balancing scope
  • Developed a streamlined eligibility process to ensure that incoming research requests are reviewed and responded to within 30 days of initial submission
  • Created a Research Planning Handbook to assist AltaMed investigators with research activities
  • Increased AltaMed’s capacity and sustainability to vet research requests by training internal AltaMed staff on project management of research requests


  • Launched a new AltaMed Research Committee that reviews proposals, consults stakeholders for input and determines whether to pursue proposed studies
  • Established centralized and structured processes to increase the Research Committee’s sustainability and laid the groundwork for the development of AltaMed’s “Employee Day” that showcases current staff’s translational research projects and the creation of an internal research coordinator to manage day-to-day tasks
  • Defined detailed project selection criteria to ensure that eligible research requests meet specified requirements that are cost-effective and align with AltaMed’s research goals and overall vision
  • New database management system to track and monitor incoming and pending research proposal requests