Patient engagement in research or patient-oriented research refers to patients, their family members and other informal caregivers partaking in research as more than study participants but as members of the research team. For example, involving patients in some or all parts of the research process from deciding what topic is studied, to how the research is conducted to how the findings are presented and used.
Partnering with patients ensures that health research is both relevant and meaningful to the patient community. For example, in rheumatology, patients’ perspectives have been instrumental in broadening the scope of the research agenda to include more patient-relevant factors such as well-being, fatigue and sleep patterns. These are significant aspects of life with inflammatory forms of arthritis, yet until recently the topics were largely ignored or underrepresented in research and outcome measurement. This example depicts why patient engagement is so critical. If researchers do not work with patients how can they know what they are studying is relevant to the population that will be most affected by it? It is in this context that the saying “nothing about me, without me” applies so strongly. Other benefits of patient engagement include enhanced quality of research with more perspectives considered, meaningful role(s) for patients and greater involvement in their communities, co-learning between patient and researchers as well as getting important research findings to a broader audience. Overall, patient engagement is a promising way to improve healthcare services and patient experience.