Partnering with frail or seriously ill patients in research: a systematic review
Research Involvement and Engagement
Background The expectation to include patients as partners in research has steadily gained momentum. The vulnerability of frail and/or seriously ill patients provides additional complexity and may deter researchers from welcoming individuals from this patient population onto their teams. The aim was to synthesize the evidence on the engagement of frail and/or seriously ill patients as research partners across the research cycle. Methods A systematic review was conducted using PRISMA guidelines.
... A search strategy included MEDLINE®, EMBASE®, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and PsycINFO from database inception to April, 2019. Eligible studies were peer-reviewed qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research reporting on the engagement of frail and/or seriously ill patients as partners on research teams. The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool was used to appraise study quality. Narrative analysis was conducted. Results Of 8763 citations, 30 were included. Most studies included individuals with cancer on the research team (60%). Barriers included: lack of time and resources (50%), discontinuity in contribution (37%), and concerns for well-being (33%). Facilitators included: trust and mutual respect (60%), structural accessibility (57%), flexibility in timing and methods of engagement (43%), and attention to care and comfort, (33%). Perceived impacts for patients included: renewed personal sense of agency (37%) and emotional/peer support (37%). Impacts for researchers included sensitization to the lived experience of disease (57%) and an increased appreciation of the benefits of patient engagement (23%). Research design, execution, and outcomes, developed with patients, were deemed more suitable, relevant and reflective of patients' priorities. Conclusions There is emerging evidence to suggest that research partnerships with frail and/or seriously ill patients can be achieved successfully. Patients mostly report benefit from partnering with research teams. Frailty and/or serious illness do present legitimate concerns for their well-being but appear to be successfully mitigated when researchers ensure that the purpose of engagement is well-defined, the timing and methods of engagement are flexible, and the practical and emotional needs of patient partners are addressed throughout the process. Systematic review registration The systematic review protocol was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews PROSPERO (CRD42019127994).