Patient-oriented research involves engaging patients in meaningful and active ways in all aspects of research—from research governance and priority setting, to actually doing the research and applying the knowledge generated by it.

Involving patients allows for greater transparency and accountability, and ensures that research is relevant to patient concerns. Patients often bring new insights to health research that can lead to innovative discoveries and better results.

“The international experience with engaging citizens and patients in research has shown that involving them early in the design of studies, ideally as early as at the planning stage, leads to better results.”¹

“An important goal of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) is for patients, including informal caregivers, family and friends  (an overarching term inclusive of individuals with personal experience of a health issue and informal caregivers, including family and friends), researchers, health care providers and decision-makers to actively collaborate to build a sustainable, accessible and equitable health care system and bring about positive changes in the health of people living in Canada. Engaging patients is thus an integral component in the development and implementation of all elements of SPOR….”²

¹ ²– CIHR website: Home>Strategies>SPOR>Patient Engagement

Ontario is one of several provincial and territorial partners working the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to implement Canada’s new Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). The strategy, which is being rolled out over five years, is a catalyst for health system transformation across Canada. It has been developed to bridge the innovation gap, and speed the mobilization of new health knowledge and practices to improve patient health outcomes.

Implementing SPOR in Ontario is expected to cost more than $100 million. The Government of Ontario will contribute $58.2 million with another $53.5 million from CIHR. These funds will be leveraged to attract further investment from private sector and other potential partners.

What sets SPOR apart from other research strategies is its focus on patient-oriented research. This means actively seeking, capturing and integrating patient perspectives and experiences into all aspects and stages of health research to inform not only research, but also subsequent evidence-informed changes in care delivery and health policy.

This will require the development of consistent and effective methods and tools to help health system stakeholders engage patients in new and meaningful ways to formulate the research agenda, for example, to identify research priorities and methodologies, and to translate and transfer research findings to the point of care to improve patient care, outcomes and health experiences.

This new approach to improving patient care and our health system will foster new partnerships and collaborations on a grand scale. Ontario research centres will work together in new ways to mobilize the required resources and expertise around issues and problems of concern to patients in an effort to find new and more effective solutions.

And patients will be actively involved every step of the way.

A SPOR Network is a collaboration of patients, health service providers, policy/decision makers, and health researchers across Canada. Together, they conduct research that produces information that responds to the needs of patients.

The primary objective of SPOR Networks is to generate evidence and innovations that advance practice and policy changes, leading to transformative and measurable improvements in patient health; health care; and efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.3

Ontario’s SPOR SUPPORT Unit (OSSU) is composed of a new Coordinating Centre and 12 Ontario health research-related centres—each with specialized expertise in a particular area or aspect of health care, research and knowledge translation and exchange.

These groups will work collaboratively, and in concert with the Coordinating Centre, to provide Ontario’s health research community and health care providers with the enabling infrastructure, scientific knowledge and technical support required to conduct different types of patient-oriented research from small pilot projects to large scale population health studies and clinical trials, and to translate and transfer the latest research evidence to inform and implement more effective health policy and clinical practices throughout the province.

3– CIHR website: Home>Strategies>SPOR>Networks/SUPPORT Units

Several initiatives and two demonstration projects have already been funded. For details, click here.