In mid-2015, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research (NLCAHR) and our health system partners agreed to add a patient engagement dimension to the Contextualized Health Research Synthesis Program (CHRSP). A strong body of evidence shows the value of involving patients as partners in health research and evidence-informed decision making. The potential benefits of introducing a systematic patient engagement dimension to CHRSP are multiple:
• Patients and caregivers have unique knowledge, perspectives, and experiences that can help with the identification and development of important research topics.
• The inclusion of patients and caregivers early in the CHRSP research process will ensure that the topics chosen for CHRSP studies include issues that are of value to patients.
• Patients and caregivers can apply their experiences within the healthcare system to identify unique contextual issues that health system decision makers may overlook.
• Patient and caregiver engagement will enhance CHRSP’s contribution to evidence-informed policy and decision support by bringing the people directly affected by our province’s healthcare policies into the CHRSP research process.
• Engaging patients and informal caregivers can contribute to the transparency, accountability and credibility of our research process and ensure that our reports are seen as relevant to the expressed needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
• Engaging with patients and caregivers aligns with Memorial University’s commitment to public engagement as one of the three components of its planning framework.
• Engaging with patients and caregivers in CHRSP will build capacity for patients, researchers and health system decision makers to work together. Patients will gain a better understanding of the research process and of the role of evidence in decision making and will have an opportunity to work with the health system leaders to develop solutions to the many challenges they together face.
• The involvement of patients and caregivers in CHRSP can enriches the dissemination of our results, making CHRSP project reports more widely accessible.
With financial support from Memorial University’s Office of Public Engagement and in collaboration with our community partners at the Seniors –NL, NLCAHR approached the task of developing a patient engagement dimension for CHRSP. We conducted a literature scan and consulted directly with the NL-SUPPORT Unit, various community organizations, and experts from across Canada to learn about best practices and challenges in patient engagement. Together with our health system partners and our external project partner (Seniors NL) we determined how to best add patient engagement to the CHRSP research process, whom to involve and how to involve them. We are pleased to report that we will be formally introducing a patient engagement dimension to our CHRSP program in September 2017.