The practice of active patient involvement in rare disease research using ICT: experiences and lessons from the RUDY JAPAN project.
Hamakawa N., Kogetsu A., Isono M., Yamasaki C., Manabe S., Takeda T., Iwamoto K., Kubota T., Barrett J., Gray N., Turner A., Teare H., Imamura Y., Yamamoto BA., Kaye J., Hide M., Takahashi MP., Matsumura Y., Javaid MK., Kato K.
BACKGROUND: The role of patients in medical research is changing, as more emphasis is being placed on patient involvement, and patient reported outcomes are increasingly contributing to clinical decision-making. Information and communication technology provides new opportunities for patients to actively become involved in research. These trends are particularly noticeable in Europe and the US, but less obvious in Japan. The aim of this study was to investigate the practice of active involvement of patients in medical research in Japan by utilizing a digital platform, and to analyze the outcomes to clarify what specific approaches could be put into practice. METHODS: We developed the RUDY JAPAN system, an ongoing rare disease medical research platform, in collaboration with the Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases Study (RUDY) project in the UK. After 2 years of preparation, RUDY JAPAN was launched in December 2017. Skeletal muscle channelopathies were initially selected as target diseases, and hereditary angioedema was subsequently added. Several approaches for active patient involvement were designed through patient-researcher collaboration, namely the Steering Committee, questionnaire development, dynamic consent, and other communication strategies. We analyzed our practices and experiences focusing on how each approach affected and contributed to the research project. RESULTS: RUDY JAPAN has successfully involved patients in this research project in various ways. While not a part of the initial decision-making phase to launch the project, patients have increasingly been involved since then. A high level of patient involvement was achieved through the Steering Committee, a governance body that has made a major contribution to RUDY JAPAN, and the process of the questionnaire development. The creation of the Patient Network Forum, website and newsletter cultivated dialogue between patients and researchers. The registry itself allowed patient participation through data input and control of data usage through dynamic consent. CONCLUSIONS: We believe the initial outcomes demonstrate the feasibility and utility of active patient involvement in Japan. The collaboration realized through RUDY JAPAN was enabled by digital technologies. It allowed busy patients and researchers to find the space to meet and work together for the Steering Committee, questionnaire development and various communication activities. While the practice of active patient involvement in Japan is still in its early stages, this research confirms its viability if the right conditions are in place. (331 words).