Patient and public involvement mobile workshops - convenient involvement for the un-usual suspects.
Eccles A., Bryce C., Turk A., Atherton H.
Plain English summary: When planning a research project into patients' experiences of online booking of GP appointments, we tried out a new way to get feedback from the public on our research ideas and design. As the research topic is about GP services used by the general public, we wanted to get feedback from people with a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. However, relying on individuals to firstly want to volunteer and then to take time to travel to and attend such an event, means that involvement may only be attractive to certain people. Others less interested in being involved - or those with busy schedules and additional responsibilities - may be unlikely or unable to attend.With this in mind, we ran a series of mobile workshops designed to be particularly convenient to attend. Each workshop was arranged at a time and a place where potential volunteers were already present and available. For example, at a workplace or a social group during a scheduled break or popular time. This meant each workshop was convenient to attend as they were at a suitable time with no travel. They also were short, lasting 30 min, to minimise disruption to individuals' diaries. To make taking part appealing, attendees were also paid (which is standard practice for patient and public involvement). This paper summarises and evaluates the process of running these workshops. Abstract: Background Patient and public involvement in research is a quickly-evolving area, with investigators developing new approaches in recent years. One concern about patient and public involvement is that it only appeals to certain individuals. When designing research into online GP services - a topic relevant to the general population - we recognised the importance of involving members of the public with a broad range of backgrounds who may not have the time, resources and inclination to volunteer normally. Methods We devised a strategy that aimed to involve members of the public from varied backgrounds, who would not typically be able to be involved. We ran a series of one-off mobile workshops at existing organisations where potential volunteers were already in situ. The workshops were kept short, making them convenient and easily accessible. Volunteers were also paid, to ensure taking part was appealing. Results We ran a series of 4 workshops involving 26 members of the public with office workers, supermarket staff, gym members (and their friends) and parents attending a toddler group. Overall the workshops were successful, as they enabled us to gain varied perspectives from volunteers with a broad range of backgrounds, many of whom had not previously been involved in research. A key challenge was making initial contact with members of approached organisations. This indicates that it may be beneficial to consider how to make the workshops appealing, not just on an individual level, but at an organisational level too. A carefully planned design worked as it enabled large amounts of input in a limited amount of time, apart from one workshop (the parent group) due to practical reasons. This highlighted some limitations of this approach that could be addressed by adapting the workshop design, according to the organisation with which they are being run. Conclusion Running one-off mobile workshops at already existing organisations allowed us to involve members of the public from a broad range of backgrounds, who would not typically volunteer to be involved in research. This was particularly suitable as the topic we were designing research for - booking GP appointments - is relevant to the general public.