Aim: To explore the contribution patients can make to medical education from both theoretical and empirical perspectives, to describe a framework for reviewing and monitoring patient involvement in specific educational situations and to generate suggestions for further research.
Methods: Literature review.
Results: Direct contact with patients can be seen to play a crucial role in the development of clinical reasoning, communication skills, professional attitudes and empathy. It also motivates through promoting relevance and providing context. Few studies have explored this area, including effects on the patients themselves, although there are examples of good practice in promoting more active participation.
Conclusion: The Cambridge framework is a tool for evaluating the involvement of patients in the educational process, which could be used by curriculum planners and teachers to review and monitor the extent to which patients are actively involved. Areas for further research include looking at the 'added value' of using real, as opposed to simulated, patients; more work on outcomes for patients (other than satisfaction); the role of real patients in assessment; and the strengths and weaknesses of different models of patient involvement.