Inverting the Patient Involvement Paradigm: Defining Patient Led Research

Res Involv Engagem. 2018 Jul 10;4:21. doi: 10.1186/s40900-018-0104-4. eCollection 2018.


Plain english summary: Patients usually understand their disease and lifestyle needs better than many medical professionals. They also have important ideas about what research would be most beneficial to their lives, especially on how to manage symptoms in a way that improves daily quality of life. In the UK, the National Institute for Health Research has recognised the value of patient insight, and now requires researchers with public funding to involve patients and the public throughout the research process. There are many opportunities for involvement, but these generally focus on improving study design to ensure the trial is acceptable to participants. Some programmes work towards setting research priorities as important to patients, public members, and medical experts, but due to the complexity and cost involved in running clinical trials, the majority of research originates with the pharmaceutical industry or academic institutions. There is a clear mismatch between research ideas that patients prioritise (quality of life), and those actually investigated (drug development).The Patient Led Research Hub (PLRH) is a new initiative hosted by the Cambridge Clinical Trials Unit. The PLRH supports research ideas as proposed by patient organisations, providing resources and expertise in research design and delivery. The PLRH aims to co-produce any technically feasible project, regardless of disease or symptom focus. The proposing patient group maintains ownership of the project with an active role in study management. This method of research has proven to produce credible research studies that are of direct relevance to patients.

Abstract: Patient and Public Involvement has become an indispensable and expected component of healthcare research in the United Kingdom, largely driven by the National Institute of Health Research and other research funders. Opportunities for patients to become involved in research abound, and many organisations now have dedicated 'public involvement' teams. However, its value is often questioned amidst criticism of tokenism and the recognition that a mismatch persists between patient priorities and funded research. Although patients are frequently consulted, evidence that their involvement influences the research agenda remains limited. We propose a novel model that allows patients and the public not only to propose research questions, but to design, initiate and deliver their own research with all the necessary support from research professionals. We demonstrate the feasibility and utility of this approach in reporting the establishment, experiences and progress of the Patient Led Research Hub. Using this resource, patient organisations are now able to initiate and conduct rigorous clinical research unfettered by the constraints of academic or economic agendas.

Keywords: Co-production; Involvement; PPI; Patient; Public; Research; Trials.