Involving frail older patients in identifying outcome measures for transitional care-a feasibility study

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BACKGROUND: During care transitions, the older (75+) patient's agenda can easily be missed. To counteract this, involving patients in shared clinical decision making has proven to be of great value. Likewise, involving patients and other stakeholders as researchers is gaining ground. Patient and public involvement (PPI) in research entails many benefits, for example, by bringing further insight from those with lived experiences of being ill. There are various challenges associated with involving some older patients, for example frailty, cognitive impairment and other chronic illnesses. To the best of our knowledge, there are only a few examples of initiatives involving older patients beyond research participation. The feasibility of involving frail older patients during an ongoing care transition from hospital to primary health care remains unknown. To investigate the feasibility of including older frail patients, their relatives and health care professionals (HCPs) as co-researchers, we established a study with increasingly demanding levels of patient involvement to identify relevant outcome measures for future transitional care research.

METHODS: The study was a pragmatic, qualitative feasibility study. The involved individuals were frail older patients, their relatives and HCPs. Patients and their relatives were interviewed, while the interviewer made reflective notes. A thematic analysis was made. Relatives and HCPs discussed the themes to identify relevant outcome measures and potentially co-create new patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) for use in future transitional care studies. The feasibility was evaluated according to six involvement steps. The level of involvement was evaluated using the five-levelled Health Canada Public Involvement Continuum (HCPIC).

RESULTS: In total, eight patients, five relatives and three HCPs were involved in the study. Patients were involved in discussing care transitions (HCPIC level 3), while some relatives were engaged (HCPIC level 4) in forming PROMs. The partnership level of involvement (HCPIC level 5) was not reached. The thematic analysis and the subsequent theme discussion successfully formed PROMs. The key PROMs were related to care, transparency and the relatives' roles in the transitional care process.

CONCLUSIONS: When applying a pragmatic involvement approach, frail older patients can be successfully involved in identifying relevant transitional care outcome measures; however, involving these patients as fellow researchers seems infeasible. To maintain involvement, supportive relatives are essential. Useful experiences for future research involvement of this vulnerable group were reported, arguing that patient participation has the potential to become inherent in future geriatric research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalResearch Involvement and Engagement
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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