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Original research
Role of active patient involvement in undergraduate medical education: a systematic review
  1. Stijntje Willemijn Dijk1,
  2. Edwin Johan Duijzer2,
  3. Matthias Wienold3
  1. 1Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
  2. 2University Medical Centre Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
  3. 3Wissenschaftliche Dienste und Projektberatung, Berlin, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Stijntje Willemijn Dijk; 340974sd{at}


Objectives To identify the scope of active patient involvement in medical education, addressing the current knowledge gaps relating to rationale and motivation for involvement, recruitment and preparation, roles, learning outcomes and key procedural contributors.

Methods The authors performed a systematic search of the PubMed database of publications between 2003 and 2018. Original studies in which patients take on active roles in the development, delivery or evaluation of undergraduate medical education and written in English were eligible for inclusion. Included studies’ references were searched for additional articles. Quality of papers was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool.

Results 49 articles were included in the review. Drivers for patient involvement included policy requirements and patients’ own motivations to contribute to society and learning. Patients were engaged in a variety of educational settings in and outside of the hospital. The vast majority of studies describe patients taking on the role of a patient teacher and formative assessor. More recent studies suggest that patients are increasingly involved in course and curriculum development, student selection and summative assessment. The new body of empirical evidence shows the wide range of learning objectives was pursued through patient participation, including competencies as professional, communicator, collaborator, leader and health advocate, but not scholar. Measures to support sustainable patient involvement included longitudinal institutional incorporation, patient recruitment and/or training, resource support and clear commitment by faculty. The importance and advantages of patient involvement were highlighted by students, faculty and patients themselves; however, organisations must continue to consider, monitor and take steps to mitigate any potential harms to patients and students.

Discussion This systematic review provides new knowledge and practical insights to physicians and faculty on how to incorporate active patient involvement in their institutions and daily practice, and provides suggested action points to patient organisations wishing to engage in medical education.

  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • medical education & training
  • health services administration & management

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  • SWD and EJD are joint first authors.

  • Twitter @StijntjeDijk

  • Contributors SWD and ED jointly developed the review protocol and search strategy. SWD, ED and MW jointly developed the data extraction sheet. The search strategy was critically reviewed by a hospital information specialist. Data collection was carried out by SWD and ED and extraction was carried out by SWD, ED and MW. The paper was written jointly by all three authors.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. The authors confirm that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within its supplementary materials.