Consumers’ and health providers’ views and perceptions of partnering to improve health services design, delivery and evaluation: a co‐produced qualitative evidence synthesis

Bronwen Merner, Lina Schonfeld, Ariane Virgona, Dianne Lowe, Louisa Walsh, Cheryl Wardrope, Lisa Graham-Wisener, Vicki Xafis, Cinzia Colombo, Nora Refahi, Paul Bryden, Renee Chmielewski, Fiona Martin, Nancy M Messino, Anne Mussared, Lorraine Smith, Susan Biggar, Marie Gill, David Menzies, Carolyn M GauldenLeia Earnshaw, Leslie Arnott, Naomi Poole, Rebecca E Ryan, Sophie Hill

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BACKGROUND: Partnering with consumers in the planning, delivery and evaluation of health services is an essential component of person-centred care. There are many ways to partner with consumers to improve health services, including formal group partnerships (such as committees, boards or steering groups). However, consumers' and health providers' views and experiences of formal group partnerships remain unclear. In this qualitative evidence synthesis (QES), we focus specifically on formal group partnerships where health providers and consumers share decision-making about planning, delivering and/or evaluating health services. Formal group partnerships were selected because they are widely used throughout the world to improve person-centred care. For the purposes of this QES, the term 'consumer' refers to a person who is a patient, carer or community member who brings their perspective to health service partnerships. 'Health provider' refers to a person with a health policy, management, administrative or clinical role who participates in formal partnerships in an advisory or representative capacity. This QES was co-produced with a Stakeholder Panel of consumers and health providers. The QES was undertaken concurrently with a Cochrane intervention review entitled Effects of consumers and health providers working in partnership on health services planning, delivery and evaluation.

OBJECTIVES: 1. To synthesise the views and experiences of consumers and health providers of formal partnership approaches that aimed to improve planning, delivery or evaluation of health services. 2. To identify best practice principles for formal partnership approaches in health services by understanding consumers' and health providers' views and experiences.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO and CINAHL for studies published between January 2000 and October 2018. We also searched grey literature sources including websites of relevant research and policy organisations involved in promoting person-centred care.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included qualitative studies that explored consumers' and health providers' perceptions and experiences of partnering in formal group formats to improve the planning, delivery or evaluation of health services.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Following completion of abstract and full-text screening, we used purposive sampling to select a sample of eligible studies that covered a range of pre-defined criteria, including rich data, range of countries and country income level, settings, participants, and types of partnership activities. A Framework Synthesis approach was used to synthesise the findings of the sample. We appraised the quality of each study using the CASP (Critical Appraisal Skill Program) tool. We assessed our confidence in the findings using the GRADE-CERQual (Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research) approach. The Stakeholder Panel was involved in each stage of the review from development of the protocol to development of the best practice principles.

MAIN RESULTS: We found 182 studies that were eligible for inclusion. From this group, we selected 33 studies to include in the final synthesis. These studies came from a wide range of countries including 28 from high-income countries and five from low- or middle-income countries (LMICs). Each of the studies included the experiences and views of consumers and/or health providers of partnering in formal group formats. The results were divided into the following categories. Contextual factors influencing partnerships: government policy, policy implementation processes and funding, as well as the organisational context of the health service, could facilitate or impede partnering (moderate level of confidence). Consumer recruitment: consumer recruitment occurred in different ways and consumers managed the recruitment process in a minority of studies only (high level of confidence). Recruiting a range of consumers who were reflective of the clinic's demographic population was considered desirable, particularly by health providers (high level of confidence). Some health providers perceived that individual consumers' experiences were not generalisable to the broader population whereas consumers perceived it could be problematic to aim to represent a broad range of community views (high level of confidence). Partnership dynamics and processes: positive interpersonal dynamics between health providers and consumers facilitated partnerships (high level of confidence). However, formal meeting formats and lack of clarity about the consumer role could constrain consumers' involvement (high level of confidence). Health providers' professional status, technical knowledge and use of jargon were intimidating for some consumers (high level of confidence) and consumers could feel their experiential knowledge was not valued (moderate level of confidence). Consumers could also become frustrated when health providers dominated the meeting agenda (moderate level of confidence) and when they experienced token involvement, such as a lack of decision-making power (high level of confidence) Perceived impacts on partnership participants: partnering could affect health provider and consumer participants in both positive and negative ways (high level of confidence). Perceived impacts on health service planning, delivery and evaluation: partnering was perceived to improve the person-centredness of health service culture (high level of confidence), improve the built environment of the health service (high level of confidence), improve health service design and delivery e.g. facilitate 'out of hours' services or treatment closer to home (high level of confidence), enhance community ownership of health services, particularly in LMICs (moderate level of confidence), and improve consumer involvement in strategic decision-making, under certain conditions (moderate level of confidence). There was limited evidence suggesting partnering may improve health service evaluation (very low level of confidence). Best practice principles for formal partnering to promote person-centred care were developed from these findings. The principles were developed collaboratively with the Stakeholder Panel and included leadership and health service culture; diversity; equity; mutual respect; shared vision and regular communication; shared agendas and decision-making; influence and sustainability.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Successful formal group partnerships with consumers require health providers to continually reflect and address power imbalances that may constrain consumers' participation. Such imbalances may be particularly acute in recruitment procedures, meeting structure and content and decision-making processes. Formal group partnerships were perceived to improve the physical environment of health services, the person-centredness of health service culture and health service design and delivery. Implementing the best practice principles may help to address power imbalances, strengthen formal partnering, improve the experiences of consumers and health providers and positively affect partnership outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)CD013274
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. on behalf of The Cochrane Collaboration.


  • Humans
  • Health Services
  • Health Personnel
  • Community Participation
  • Caregivers


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