Touchpoints matrix by Yu luck from the Noun Project

Driving towards a better patient experience through health research participation

Engaging patients around health research is an essential strand of the patient experience fabric.

The recent experiences of a number of healthcare organizations in Canada and elsewhere have illustrated how integrating patients into quality improvement efforts and involving them in decisions on the design of care can contribute to the success of those efforts1. This idea is the foundation of the emerging field of patient experience. The Beryl Institute defines patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care”. An examination of existing literature reveals that patient experience is characterized by the following three important characteristics: (1) active patient and family partnership and engagement, (2) the integral need for person-centeredness, and (3) an acknowledgement of the broad and integrated nature of the overall experience 2.

Patient-centered design involves being respectful of, and responsive to patient and family preferences, needs and values. There is nothing more patient-centered than involving patients in choices regarding their health while also empowering them to help with finding better ways to treat or manage conditions like theirs.

Patient experience is usually associated with care and care facilities. However, engaging patients around health research is just as essential a strand of the patient experience fabric. Research in this area shows that health research participation offers an innovative care option which helps improve the patient experience of care, the population health, and also arguably reducing the per-capita cost of healthcare 3. Patient-centered design involves being respectful of, and responsive to patient and family preferences, needs and values. There is nothing more patient-centered than involving patients in choices regarding their health while also empowering them to help with finding better ways to treat or manage conditions like theirs.

Thinking of health research and patient experience together can lead to some very interesting service design opportunities. As just one very simple example, think of the last time you visited your doctor. Your experience was probably something like this:

  1. Check in at the front desk
  2. Wait in the clinic waiting area
  3. Walk to the exam room when called upon
  4. Get a primary screen by a nurse/physician assistant
  5. Wait in the exam room
  6. See your doctor
  7. Wait in line at the check out counter
  8. Check out

If you are like me, time passes real slowly while you are waiting (steps #2 and #5). The waiting areas are usually characterized by stacks of old books and magazines, dry posters on walls and if you are lucky, some artwork. If you could however use the same time to introduce patients to health research using engaging technology like Augmented Reality (AR), it might offer a more interesting and educational patient-experience.

Our journey of co-developing the UMHealthResearch platform with patients and members of the public has taught us a lot about designing to involve the community in health research. We have learnt about touch-points in the patient experience where introducing health research opportunities benefits patients and their families. We have also learnt about the constraints that caregivers face in introducing research to patients and their families.

Engaging patients and families in health research involves creating a tight bond between healthcare providers and health researchers and recognizing that it is just as critical a part of the entire patient experience.

Engaging patients and families in health research involves creating a tight bond between healthcare providers and health researchers and recognizing that it is just as critical a part of the entire patient experience. UMHealthResearch provides patients and families an avenue through which they can search for health research participation opportunities when they are within the hospital or outside; UMHealthResearch also provides caregivers at U-M the ability to point interested patients to one place where they can learn more about participating in health research. However, we recognize that this is just the very beginning. There are opportunities to use new technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to aid in enhancing the patient experience by engaging them around health research.


  1. Baker GR, Fancott C, Judd M, Oconnor P. Expanding patient engagement in quality improvement and health system redesign: Three Canadian case studies. Healthcare Management Forum. 2016;29(5):176–182. doi:10.1177/0840470416645601. ↩︎
  2. Jason, A. (2014). Defining patient experience. Patient experience journal, 1(1), 7–19. ↩︎
  3. Kensing, F. & Blomberg, J. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) (1998) 7: 167. doi:10.1023/A:1008689307411 ↩︎