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Using a deliberative forum for engaging health system and health plan leaders to prioritize research topics

Kathleen M McTigue, E Johanna Hartelius, Timothey S Anderson, Andrew P Allsup, Treva Alston, Cynthia H Chuang, Stacey Dillon, Daniel E Ford, Nivedita Gunturi, Rachel Hess, H Lester Kirchner, Sharon L Larson, Anita B Leon-Jhong, David R McCoy, Anuradha Paranjape, James R Uhrig, Anam A Waheed, Gordon R Mitchell


Background: Including stakeholders in the process and outcomes of comparative effectiveness research (CER) can help ensure that research questions are relevant and findings are communicated to individuals who need them for decision-making. Yet limited strategies are available to assist researchers with stakeholder engagement.While health system leaders’ perspectives are increasingly recognized as valuable for CER planning, their inclusion in the stakeholder pool raises challenges due to differences in culture, training, incentives, priorities and language norms.

Objective: To convene and evaluate a deliberative forum for engaging health system leaders and other stakeholders in order to shape health system research priorities for the PaTH Clinical Data Research Network, a member of the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet).

Methods: Breakout sessions and large group deliberation solicited diverse perspectives and explored benefits and challenges of different research questions. Topic reframing, narrative integration and dynamic updating techniques facilitated communication across diverse backgrounds. Participants included 29 health system and health plan leaders, clinicians, clinical researchers and patients from the network’s 6 participating health systems. Main measures were audience response system (ARS) polling on general topic preferences and survey data on measures of engagement and deliberation success.

Results: A slate of 10 specific research topics was vetted; after deliberation, the group converged to favor the characterization of high utilizers of healthcare. Audience response polling revealed opinion shifts. Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the experience and rated it highly for markers of deliberative quality (e.g., opportunity for active participation and adequate discussion, respect for others’ opinions and awareness of different perspectives). Fifty-four percent noted their views on the issues changed. Most participants learned from the experience (93%) and agreed that the process helped them to empathize with the challenges of others (85%).

Conclusions: A deliberation forum can incorporate diverse stakeholders into CER, enabling participants to inform and learn from each other’s perspectives while shaping a person-centered research trajectory.


Comparative effectiveness research, communication, health priorities, health services research, patient-centered care, patient engagement, person-centered healthcare, stakeholder engagement

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