Today we are moving around the EPIC model from Explore to Promote. The start of a new foray into activities which can be undertaken within a clinical setting by emergent health researchers to increase engagement with research and contribute to the health research community.
To get you into ‘promoting’ mode here is something to ponder …
In 2012 a poll commissioned by NIHR showed that 82% of the public think it important for the NHS to offer opportunities to take part in healthcare research. If this is the case
- When was the last time you gave someone information about the research going on in your clinical specialty that they might be interested in participating in?
- How well informed are you about the range of research being undertaken by colleagues in your extended clinical team?
If I’m honest the need to promote other peoples’ research didn’t really enter my consciousness until I became a researcher myself. Then it became REALLY important.
I prepared a stack of patient information packs and put them in nicely coloured folders in the hope that they would stand out and set off to talk with colleagues about who I would love them to pass the packs on to. I explained the importance of my research to future practice, was as upbeat and encouraging as possible and offered to return with more packs once the initial pile had been given out. And then I waited.
Participants did eventually come forward but it seemed to take forever and I knew, from the numbers of packs given out and the number of patients being seen, that in spite of my colourful folders a lot of potential participants weren’t receiving the information.
In my head I knew how challenging it was to remember about someone else’s research in the midst of a clinical session but in my heart a voice was saying, ‘Oh come of guys please just remember’
At this point you may be thinking, OK, but is this my problem? Well yes it is and here are some reasons why: it’s in the NHS constitution; it matters to patients; it’s important to the growth of the economy.
The benefits to patients of participating in clinical research have been described by the NIHR Clinical Research Network as
- providing patients with additional treatment options
- supporting them in developing a better understanding of the management of their condition
- providing additional contact and a partnership relationship with their health professionals
- enabling them to give something back to the NHS, and contribute to better treatment
Every year on International Clinical Trials day there is a national campaign focused on the public called ‘It’s OK to ask’. The focus is on encouraging people, when they come into contact with healthcare professionals, to ask about any research that they might be able to take part in. If someone asked you would you be able to answer the question?
In 2012 NIHR commissioned a Mystery Shopper exercise in 40 acute Trusts to determine the extent to which research was being promoted through notice boards, Trust websites and by asking at reception.
91% of sites didn’t have any information in their reception area, on notice boards, on electronic screens or leaflets displays.
A common experience was described as follows:
… a mystery shopper approached a greeter, who directed the shopper to the receptionist, who sent the shopper to the information desk where no information was available, after which they were sent to the Trust’s website.
Lets think a little about the economy as well. The government is committed to making the UK the best place in the world to undertaken health research, not only does it benefit patients but it benefits the economy as well. Putting this into context
- 73,000 people are employed directly by the pharmaceutical industry in the UK
- The industry generates a trade surplus of £3bn per annum
- And 25% of all expenditure on R&D in UK businesses is by the pharmaceutical industry
The pharmaceutical industry is functioning in a competitive market and needs to conduct its business in countries with the ability to provide the relevant infrastructure to support its work. It can take over 12 years to bring a new medicine to market and typically costs over one billion pounds. With this level of investment the industry needs to be confident that clinical trials can be conducted efficiently and this includes recruiting participants which in turn requires all of us to promote research to patients.
What would it mean if the industry withdraws business from the UK? Well, it’s not just about the economic impact, imagine an NHS without access to trials of the latest medicines or interventions. If you or a member of your family were ill wouldn’t you want to be given the chance to take part in a clinical trial of a cutting edge intervention? How would you feel if you knew that a new treatment was being trialed and no one gave you the opportunity to take part?
This post has provided an introduction to why the promotion of research is a key activity within the research community and I will develop this a little further in the next post. But for now the take home message is that being a part of the research community requires us all to see the promotion of research as part of our role in improving patient care.