User involvement in a Danish project on the empowerment of cancer patients – experiences and early recommendations for further practice
Patient and public involvement
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AbstractAbstract Background This paper reports on the process of involving former and current cancer patients and carers as co-researchers in a Danish mixed methods research project on patient empowerment of cancer patients in follow up (The Empowerment study 2015–2019). User-Involvement in health care research is a relatively new practice in Denmark and the Empowerment project was one of the first to systematically involve patients and carers in its research design, conduct and reporting. The paper has two aims: first, it provides a detailed account of the process of involving co-researchers in the Empowerment project and second, it presents findings from a workshop held with academic researchers and co-researchers on the project to discuss their experiences and recommendations for user-involvement in the Danish context. Methods The Empowerment project adopted a consultative and collaborative approach to user involvement and co-researchers were involved from the early stages and all through the project. Users gave feedback on the proposal, helped develop project documents and research tools, acted as peer interviewers in qualitative interviews, participated in data analysis and development of questionnaires, and co-authored journal articles. The workshop held with the academic researchers and co-researchers consisted of two parallel focus groups and a joint group discussion, following an interactive and informal format to facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas. Findings The focus group resulted in eleven recommendations for the further development of user-involvement in Denmark. Key issues encountered were the general lack of guidelines on user-involvement in the Danish context and the need for more organisational support. Particular issues, such as payment, recruitment and training, need to be carefully considered within individual projects and within the national context in which projects are carried out. Conclusion The paper adds to the current very limited knowledge base on user-involvement in the Danish context and provides a set of early recommendations for the further development of the practice in Danish Health Research. User-involvement needs to be developed with consideration to the local context, but common challenges also emphasise the usefulness of cross-country comparisons and knowledge exchange.