Using REACH BC to Recruit Patient Partners – Patient partners help create new resources for mental health providers
New additions have been made to the REACH BC Platform, expanding its existing search directory to include a database of current and past research and patient-oriented research projects. This new feature allows individuals to learn about a project, its results and outcomes, and even how patient partners or participants were engaged. Additionally, a visual map was added to show where projects are taking place throughout the province. REACH BC launched this POR Database at the beginning of February 2022. REACH BC presented these new features at the BC Support Unit Conference ‘Putting Patients First’ held on March 10th – you can view the platform database demonstration on the recording here.
Travis Salway, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University recruited multiple patient partners for his team using REACH BC.
When Travis first learned about patient-oriented research (POR), he saw immediate parallels to the community-based research he had been conducting for the past 20 years. With his background as a social epidemiologist whose research investigates the health of Two-Spirit as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and other sexual and gender minority (2S/LGBTQ) people, Travis saw POR as a natural fit for his next project.
“This experience working alongside patient partners has been extremely beneficial to our team. They ask questions about the goals of our research that students and research staff may not have considered,” explains Travis.
For their project, Travis and his team aimed to address anxiety in the context of sexual health services by helping service providers connect individuals with mental health supports.
Anxiety and other mental health concerns are common among people accessing sexual health services, particularly among those that identify as belonging to a sexual minority group. To address this issue, the team developed a resource to help service providers recognize and respond to sexual health anxiety among service users, which is available on SmartSexResource.
During consultations, providers also indicated that a scarcity of trusted, reliable, and accessible mental health referral options can make it difficult to connect service users with appropriate mental health services. In response, the team developed MindMapBC, an online database of mental health supports. SmartSexResource and MindMapBC aim to help health care providers respond to unmet mental health needs and improve connections to mental health supports in British Columbia. Creating effective resources would not have been possible without the valuable contributions from their patient partners. Travis and his team ensure their patient partners are involved in many aspects of the research process, including assisting with tasks such as analyzing interview data, conducting interviews with other patients, and helping develop additional resources for service providers. These activities are often based on what the patient partner is looking to get out of the project, their willingness to learn, and how the project team can best support them.
This experience has encouraged Travis to continue engaging patient partners on future research projects for the immense value they bring, and he encourages other researchers to do the same. He recommends that individuals interested in getting involved in POR reach out to the BC SUPPORT Unit, other researchers, or health care decision-makers, and express why they want to get involved.
For more information on how to Register as a Researcher on REACH BC, or to Sign up as Patient Partner create your Volunteer Account CLICK HERE.
REACH BC would like to give a special thanks to the team who lead this project, BrittneySchichter, Rhyann Fairbrother, Paul Burgener, Swapnil Shah and Belinda Jampoh.
This project would not have been possible without the following people: Bev Pomeroy, Lisa Ridgeway, the BC SUPPORT Unit Patient Council, Pat Atherton, Colleen McGavin, Larry Mroz, John Ward, Terri Fleming, Amber Hui, the BC SUPPORT Unit regional centres, and the team at REACH BC.