Implementing patient engagement in healthcare is becoming more and more common, but in order for us to fully optimize patient engagement techniques, we need to be performing better research. We need to better understand the patient’s perspective so that we can fully take advantage of any potential gaps in the patient experience.

One key aspect to conducting patient-centered research that we often miss out on is clinician feedback. While, of course, they are already overwhelmed with the responsibilities their important jobs mandate, there are ways we can further involve them in the process. Their feedback is too significant to ignore, but we often neglect it simply because we are unable to acquire it.

It’s time to move past taking the easy road and to get them involved. In light of such, I have highlighted a couple projects in particular using creative ways to recruit clinician feedback:

Make research easy.

One such project worked with urban low-income community health centers. The researchers sought out patients suffering from chronic pain and offered acupuncture services in addition to other integrative treatment approaches. More specifically, the study wanted to compare the effects of group acupuncture (acupuncture with multiple patients in a room) with one-on-one acupuncture.

Diane McKee, MD, MS, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Manhattan, remembers “offering acupuncture to patients who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it was not a hard sell to the clinics’ doctors. Trickier was squeezing the service into the bustling clinic.” Considering how busy these clinics are, it only makes sense that clinicians would not want to volunteer to take on extra responsibility and report findings to a third party.

That’s why the research team made it as easy as possible for clinicians to recommend the study. All clinicians had to do was identify patients with chronic pain and ask whether or not they would be interested in acupuncture. From there, the research team and acupuncture therapists would attend clinic meetings, keep clinicians up-to-date with the process, and communicate stories about the effectiveness of the treatment.

Coming together with the community.

Another project in Philadelphia is analyzing whether or not community health workers can help improve treatment for patients with chronic diseases. The research team realized that there was something missing from their study—connection.

Patient groups were meeting with their advisors and then their clinician instead of meeting them both at the same time. This posed an issue because it meant things were lost in translation. Patients were not being properly informed of the “specific logistical details of the intervention and improvements” the study might make.

In response to this, the study began holding town hall meetings where patients could describe their experience, community health workers could explain their side of things, and the patient advisors and clinicians could work together to come up with solutions. Afterward, the research group was able to articulate logistical problems as well as understand stakeholders truly valued.

Clinicians have potentially the most insightful feedback to give, and yet they go neglected very often in studies because of their demanding schedules. If we are able to transcend this barrier, we may be to improve healthcare far faster than we ever thought possible.