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Keywords:

  • review [publication type];
  • *education, medical;
  • *patient simulation;
  • cross-sectional studies;
  • clinical competence/*standards;
  • attitude to health;
  • patient participation;
  • professional–patient relations;
  • patients/*psychology;
  • personality;
  • patient selection

Objectives  There is increasing emphasis on encouraging more active involvement of patients in medical education. This is based on the recognition of patients as ‘experts’ in their own medical conditions and may help to enhance student experiences of real-world medicine. This systematic review provides a summary of evidence for the role and effectiveness of real patient involvement in medical education.

Methods  MEDLINE, EMBASE, ERIC, PsychINFO, Sociological Abstracts and CINAHL were searched from the start of the databases to July 2007. Three key journals and reference lists of existing reviews were also searched. Articles published in English and reporting primary empirical research on the involvement of real patients in medical education were included. The synthesis of findings is integrated by narrative structured in such a way to address the research questions.

Results  A total of 47 articles were included in the review. The majority of studies reported patients in the role of teachers only; others described patient involvement in assessment or curriculum development or in combined roles. Patient involvement was recommended in order to bring the patient voice into education. There were several examples of how to recruit and train patients to perform an educational role. The effectiveness of patient involvement was measured by evaluation studies and reported improvements in skills.

Conclusions  There was limited evidence of the long-term effectiveness of patient involvement and issues of ethics, psychological impact and influence on education policy were poorly explored. Future studies should address these issues and should explore the practicalities of sustaining such educational programmes within medical schools.