Engaging clinicians and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, radiographers, prosthetists etc. in your research can help shape your project, provide a route to translation and recruit advocates in the wider medical and policy communities to increase the chances of widespread uptake of your technology.
Of all the stakeholders you can involve in your research, relevant healthcare professionals are likely to be the most valuable. They can often bring a balanced perspective encompassing not just their own views, but also those of the healthcare system and of the wider patient perspective. Incorporating these perspectives from the outset and throughout your project will ensure that your project addresses the critical real world challenges faced by patients and other healthcare service users.
Where your project requires engagement with human subjects, for example as part of a proof of concept study, you will almost certainly require a clinical collaborator to facilitate and oversee this activity. In addition clinicians can bring valuable insights into how new technologies might integrate (or not) into existing clinical work flows. Clinical researchers are often a valuable source of information regarding ethical approvals and regulatory requirements for new technologies.
Medical personnel need to understand and trust the processes and results before basing clinical interventions on the output. Projects developing technology that provides a definitive answer for clinicians may still not be readily adopted if it is a black box from the point of view of the user. You may want to consider spending time in a clinical environment to fully appreciate the challenges within the health setting and developing key two-way relationships. Cementing strong cross disciplinary relationships can be considered as a key output of your project.
Identifying and disseminating your results to key groups can increase wider uptake, start to influence policy and/or provide you with ideas for future developments. By engaging with key clinical stakeholders early you will increase the chance that they will be receptive to your research outputs and can act as advocates for the benefits of your technology. Often there can be significant inertia behind existing treatment options and having a clinical champion for your technology can often be vital in achieving a wider change in medical practice.
As with other stakeholders, engagement with healthcare personnel should not be considered as a discrete activity at any single point in your project. The best projects will be co-created with stakeholders and will continue to actively involve them throughout the project. Developing a close working relationship with clinical partners is one of the most effective ways of ensuring continuity in the support for new technologies through the long development process.
Questions to Consider
- What level of influence am I hoping to achieve through my research?
- What area of health does my research impact upon?
- Who are the key clinical groups (e.g. individuals, teams, hospitals etc.) in this area?
- Do you have relevant contacts? If not, how will you establish relevant contacts?
- How will clinical engagement be included and managed within the project?
Resources to Request
As part of your proposal you should consider requesting resources to:
- Engage NHS staff on the grant as formal Co-Investigators; EPSRC can pay relevant staff costs and NHS research costs (see below).
- Engage healthcare professional representation in a suitable advisory board.
- Undertake a secondment or discipline hop to spend time in a clinical setting gathering information and understanding.
- Carry out feasibility studies/market research of end users during your proposal to inform. iterations/refinement in approach.
- Disseminate findings to wider clinical audiences e.g. through workshops/site visits.
- EPSRC Policy on Investigator Eligibility: Guidance on the eligibility of investigators for EPSRC support, including NHS staff.
- EPSRC Policy on NHS Costs: Guidance on the eligibility of costs incurred within the NHS associated with EPSRC projects.
- NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure: NIHR office that can help you to connect with relevant NIHR investments and researchers.
- The Academic Health Science Networks – English specific networks that connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry to spread innovation at pace and scale improving health and generating economic growth.
- Healthcare Technology Co-operatives: information on the NIHR HTCs which act as a catalyst for NHS “pull” for the development of new medical device concepts.
- Diagnostic Evidence Cooperatives: four centres which bring together a wide range of experts and specialists from across the NHS and industry, including clinicians and other healthcare professionals, patients, NHS commissioners and researchers to improve the way diseases are diagnosed.
- NHS Careers: Provides a comprehensive description of the wide variety of roles found within the NHS, this can be useful when trying to identify who to engage.
- Health and Care Research Wales: Information on the Welsh Government body that supports and develops excellent research which has a positive impact on the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the people in Wales.
- Chief Scientist Office: information on the work of the CSO to support all research in NHS Scotland through NHS Research Scotland.
- Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Northern Ireland) – provides information on the HSC R&D budget on behalf of the Department of Health, Northern Ireland.