Health data research is a growing area of work and combines maths, statistics and technology to manage and analyse very large amounts of different datasets across our health and care systems. The information we get from health data research will enable us to make advances in healthcare. Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) in health data research is vital to ensure we can maximise the public benefit of our research.

Dr Sarah Bunney (Imperial College London) is currently working on a research project which was successfully awarded through a rapid funding call by Health Data Research UK, Office for National Statistics, and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).  Her project is  “How can healthcare data be connected with wastewater surveillance of COVID-19 in a privacy-preserving fashion to inform epidemiological models and democratise data access?” The research project is building on existing UKRI and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) work to use national data to answer this key COVID-19 research question.

We asked Sarah for her thoughts on how PPIE has an impact on her health data research.

In your opinion, why is PPIE so important to health data research?

“PPIE is important in health data research because it provides the opportunity to obtain alternative views of the research project, an understanding of the level of knowledge regarding the research proposal and attitudes and perceptions regarding the field of research that is being conducted.”

Where has PPIE had an impact in your work?

“PPIE has had an impact with regard to the COVID-19 response and providing researchers with the opportunity to discuss their research proposals with patients and the public.  These discussions have helped to inform decisions regarding the research methodology and the communication of research findings in a clear and accessible manner to the public.”

What do you want to see in the future when it comes to involving patients and the public?

“PPIE certainly has an important role to play within the field of health data research and I think it is important that this continues.  I think closer collaboration between researchers, patients and the public in the design of research proposals would help to inform a strong body of research for the future.”

If you would like to learn about how to get involved with our work at HDR UK, please visit our opportunities page and sign up to HDR UK Voices.