Every day, researchers are finding new or improved ways to address pressing health needs and help us live healthier lives. For example, a recent Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute-funded study on enhanced primary care and electronic health coaching for childhood obesity showed a year-to-year reduction in participants' BMI. In the same study, parents also reported better access to resources to help their children maintain a healthy weight.
Designed from the beginning with input from parents, children, pediatric clinicians and community health providers, this obesity intervention translated healthcare reminders into digestible pieces of information, provided location-specific resources, and offered advice and support outside of the primary care practice. But even evidence-based tools, designed with the end-users in mind such as this one, do not get used if patients and clinicians are not effectively made aware of them, which is increasingly challenging in our information-saturated environments.
Peer-reviewed studies show that health and healthcare research have much better outcomes when patients, families and clinicians are included from the start. Their involvement helps to improve study recruitment, retention and results, as well as incorporate cultural and community relevance. It is no longer a novelty for researchers to have both patient and clinician advisers present throughout the research process, from planning to data collection to analysis. But engagement should not end when the study begins, or even when it concludes. Patient and clinician engagement are also vital during the dissemination and implementation phases. After all, the most stunning research results cannot effect change if no one is effectively made aware of them.
Thankfully, gone are the days of one-size-fits-all healthcare. In today's environment of tailoring care to better meet patient needs and preferences, the patient-centered medical home is a model where the patient and their family and caregivers are consulted to help build a personalized care plan that the clinician, serving as the "general contractor," can then coordinate to implement that care. Why shouldn't they all be included when considering how to disseminate the research results that could impact that care?
We believe involving stakeholders in the process of getting innovative results of patient-centered outcomes research into the hands of patients, families, and clinicians is vital. Gaining knowledge of the most relevant and recent research results enhances their decisionmaking power and ultimately improves care. That is why we are calling on the primary-care community, researchers and funders to expand their network of stakeholders who share this vision and have effective dissemination networks to get innovative and revolutionary research findings to clinicians and patients and their families. As a collaborative focused on primary care, we recognize the value of getting diverse input early and often, but we too have room to improve when it comes to patient inclusion.
Engaging patients and clinicians in the research dissemination process will take time, effort and trial and error. But just as engaging all stakeholders in the research process has paid off, this will also be time well spent. Patients, families and clinicians, armed with the most pertinent and timely research, can then paint a picture of a care plan to help achieve the best health outcomes. If research dissemination is an art, then let's not be starving artists. Let's ask our key audiences what they want and how they want to receive it.