Contributed by Dr. Louisa Edwards, PREFeR Project. 

Primary care is where most people go first for medical help and advice when they have a health issue. It is provided by health care professionals, like family doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, who deliver and coordinate care, monitor health, and prevent disease where possible. Because primary care is the first point of contact for most patients, it presents a unique opportunity to support a wide variety of patients with their health.

Research in primary care is essential for evaluating whether there are new and possibly better ways of delivering care, services, or treatment for patients. Much of primary care research focuses on studying patient needs and gaps in care, but patients are not frequently included in prioritizing research ideas. At a basic level, this is problematic because patient and clinician priorities may differ significantly. So, the change we’d like to see happen – our pledge for Change Day 2017 is to bring forward patient priorities for primary care research in BC and beyond. We’re hoping others will agree that this is important too and join our pledge!

We are passionate about this issue because it leads to better research and, in turn, better health care. That’s because involving patients directly in the research prioritization process can more accurately identify patient needs, informational gaps, and ultimately benefits the intended end-users – that is, patients themselves. And, we have actually turned our passion into action through the PREFeR (PRioritiEs For Research) Project. PREFeR seeks to identify patient-generated priorities for primary care research in British Columbia, and compare patient and clinician perspectives.

Through a guided series of steps in the PREFeR Project, a Patient Advisory group of 10 members from five different health authorities throughout BC brainstormed nearly 100 primary care experiences, which were grouped into core themes. Patients then reviewed, discussed, and individually ranked the 10 most important themes. The pooled results revealed the group’s top priorities for primary care. Now, we’re hoping for as many people as possible in BC to tell us if these are their priorities, too!

Would you like to have your say? The PREFeR team are preparing a short online survey (5-10 minutes) for patients and health care professionals in BC to vote on their top priorities for primary care to address. If you would like the link for the survey, please email Dr Louisa Edwards.

We are grateful to the BC Primary Health Care Research Network Patient Advisory for their invaluable insights. We are graetful for the support the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research Patient-Oriented Research Collaboration (Grant number 151801), and the BC SUPPORT Unit.