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Patient Governance in a Patient-Powered Research Network for Adult Rheumatologic Conditions

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Nowell WB1, Curtis JR2, Crow-Hercher R3. Med Care. 2018 Aug 2. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000814. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract

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1 Global Healthy Living Foundation, Upper Nyack, NY.

2 Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL.

3 Global Healthy Living Foundation, CreakyJoints, Upper Nyack, NY.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Patient-Powered Research Networks (PPRNs) are a unique type of patient-powered patient registry for patient-centered outcomes research requiring that stakeholder engagement play a key role in governance (eg, research guidance and decision making). The purpose of this report is to describe the governance structure of a newly formed PPRN and the activities undertaken prelaunch and postlaunch to evaluate and improve the engagement of patient stakeholders in governance.

METHODS: During the 18-month start-up period of ArthritisPower, a PPRN for adult rheumatologic conditions, 12 members of the patient body of the PPRN governance completed a 12-item preassessment and postassessment based on the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Engagement Rubric. The assessment was intended to measure Patient Governor (PG) perceptions of their engagement in governance within the first 3 months of their involvement at an in-person orientation. Six months later, the PG Chair initiated a mid-year evaluation with the same group to identify areas for improvement. Semistructured phone interviews were conducted with 11 PGs who were asked to rate and explain their perceptions about their participation in PPRN governance, the progress of the PPRN toward conducting research, the support they receive from staff, and the support they receive from other PGs. Results were compiled and interpreted by the Chair with help from the coprincipal investigator.

RESULTS: Preassessment/postassessments indicated that PGs understood their governance role and decision-making authority after in-person orientation and felt that major PPRN decisions were being made with their input. Feedback and scores from the PG-led mid-year evaluation coalesced around 3 themes: a preference for receiving news and updates via email to allow more discussion and decision making during conference calls, a desire for guidance about how best to help advance the PPRN toward the conduct of research, and a need to communicate with each other as a group outside of monthly conference calls. Suggested activities to support patient engagement in PPRN governance include communicating clear expectations, providing well-prepared tools for engagement, and conducting regular assessments.

CONCLUSIONS: Members of an online patient community are willing to share their expertise to participate in and shape research governance and bring both their professional and lived health experience to the development and improvement of PPRN governance structure. A patient-initiated and patient-led evaluation of governance communication procedures within the PPRN provided more specific recommendations for improvement than did an investigator-led preevaluation/postevaluation based on the PCORI Engagement Rubric.