Patients to learn from: on the need for systematic integration of research and care in academic health care

Martin Boeckhout, Philip Scheltens, Peggy Manders, Cees Smit, Annelien L Bredenoord, Gerhard A Zielhuis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Patients suffering from rare, extreme or extremely complex sets of symptoms have something to expect from efforts to improve care through research. Biomedical research and care have often been approached as distinct worlds which are and should be only loosely connected. For observational research focusing on data drawn from real-world settings, however, that approach is found wanting. Integrating research and care responsibly is the main challenge instead. Integrated IT infrastructures facilitating Personalized medicine and Big Data are crucial components of a learning health care system, in which patients regularly play a double role: as individuals to be treated and as cases to learn from. Drawing on the example of the Dutch Parelsnoer Institute (PSI), a national biobanking and IT infrastructure integrated with clinical care procedures, this article outlines the reforms that are needed. Systematic integration of research and care offers a promising avenue, provided that a number of conditions are met: data and IT infrastructures will require overhauls in order to facilitate secure, high-quality data integration between research and care; institutional focus is needed to bring patient populations and expertise together; ethical frameworks and approaches for integrating research and care responsibly require further elaboration; clinical procedures and professional responsibilities may need to be adapted in order to accommodate research requirements in clinical processes; and involvement of patients and other stakeholders in design and research priority setting is needed to further the goals of real-world and patient relevance.

Relevance for patients: Integrating research and care in academic medicine in a more systematic fashion offers a promising perspective to current and future patients. In order to live up to these promises, research and care should be integrated more systematically in academic health science, with patients being included as research participants by default. Data and tissue infrastructures and facilities can provide a platform for doing so. At the same time, many issues remain to be settled. New ethical ways and means for protecting and respecting patient-participants in such a double role are also needed in this respect. In this way a deeper transformation is at stake as well: a change towards a setting in which patients fully take center stage in debate and action on the future of biomedicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-406
Number of pages6
JournalTranslational research : the journal of laboratory and clinical medicine
Issue numberSuppl 3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2018

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