Working together but not in the same way: how we’ve been adapting to virtual public and patient involvement

2020 has been a year of changes as to how we work on lots of levels and working with public contributors in developing, managing and disseminating research has led to new opportunities and some challenges. As the lead for the Patient and public involvement and participatory research approaches in academic primary care SAPC special interest group it has made me think about how the new ways we are working impact on the public involvement we are able to do.

We’ve all become used to Zoom, Microsoft teams, and other virtual platforms to keep our academic primary care research moving and while we’ve all adapted, I think it has opened up discussions about public involvement and participatory research and ways that we can do this virtually. From talking to public contributors many like the option of not having to travel to meetings, the time it takes and the amount of energy it takes which may be particularly important for people who have long term conditions. Being able to turn on a screen and see everyone is a great way of keeping in touch. We’ve had to learn a new etiquette for online meetings, organising chat rooms, polls and also sorts of ways to be creative and engaging. It’s a whole new process. With that said, with these opportunities also come important challenges to consider. How people are digitally excluded from getting involved and how we can work with communities that are already marginalised to not further exclude people is an issue that needs to be addressed. How do we reach people who cannot or do not use digital technologies? While we may have been able to involve people who normally wouldn’t be able to attend meetings, we also have to be mindful about people who may now be inadvertently excluded or do not hear about opportunities in the first instance. These are important questions to discuss, share our experiences and learn from what has and hasn’t worked. What are the lessons we’ve learnt, what has worked well and where can we improve? We’re going to organise a virtual meeting of the SIG to discuss these issues so if you’re interested, or want to suggest ideas please get in touch!

Becci Morris

PPI SIG Lead and SAPC Exec member