A framework for doing person-centred health research

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Stephen Buetow


Andrew Miles and Juan Mezzich have called for immediate action in the design, development and implementation of research methodologies to translate the philosophy of person‑centred medicine into routine health practice.   This paper responds to that clarion call by taking the first step of sketching an integrated conceptual framework for evaluating the person‑centredness of different study designs and facilitating the conscious practice of person-centred health research in order to advance knowledge and improve health outcomes.  From the assumption that person-centred research is most comfortably anti-realist, I have schematically mapped the person-centredness of individual study designs against the personhood of the study participants and the personhood of the researcher respectively.  The person-centredness of these designs is assessed through a criteria sieve, including a 5-Cs framework, and deemed to be strengthened by designs that are case-oriented, co-constructed, caring, contextualized and complete.  Strongly person-centred research is suited to clinical settings including family practice, but it can be productively mixed with study designs that are weakly person-centred, for example through approaches that are dialectical or are pragmatic. The next step is to review and refine my framework, before using it to inform and assess the design and practice of health research, policy and personal and public health care.   

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Author Biography

Stephen Buetow, University of Auckland

Stephen Buetow is an Associate Professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, New Zealand, having also held academic positions in primary care in Australia (National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health) and England (National Primary Care Research and Development Centre in Manchester). With a PhD in Demography from the Australian National University and a broad background in the humanities and social sciences, Stephen produces health services research in diverse areas, with a particular analytical focus on challenging the clinician-centric discourse underpinning modern health care.  He has published two books and 100 peer reviewed papers (H-index of 16) in Journals including the Lancet and British Medical Journal.  Stephen is both a member of the Editorial Board and a regional (Oceania) Editor for the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice and the International Journal of Person-Centred Medicine.  In New Zealand he is a Public Health Research Committee member of the Health Research Council and has chaired several of its public health assessing committees.  He coordinates a postgraduate research methods course and has contributed significant service to his University, for example as Acting Head of Department during 2009-10.


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