Objectives: The aim was to learn about perspectives of consumers contributing to the work of the Division of Research, Audit and Academic Surgery of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The research arm of the Division has worked with consumers since it was formed in 1998.
Methods: Nine consumers who worked with the Division over the past 5 years completed (1) a written survey focused on their background and past experience, and (2) a semi-structured phone interview focused on their motivations for becoming involved in this work; their role; the evolution of the role of consumers in healthcare research; and what health information for consumers should contain.
Results: Participants came from various backgrounds and had different motivations for being involved. A common theme was concern about uncertainties in surgery and the need to provide consumers with information about potential benefits and risks of a procedure. Participants believed that a consumer presence was vital in research on surgical procedures, and that the content and wording of consumer information must be chosen carefully in order for the public to use it in a meaningful way. They also acknowledged the changing role of the consumer, who was rapidly becoming a partner in the doctor-patient relationship.
Conclusions: In surgical research and audit, the consumer perspective is unique and informed by a wealth of experience. The findings of this study may be of interest to other health technology assessment and associated agencies seeking to involve consumers within their own research process.