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The Department of Health is committed to patient centred care and therefore to giving reliable and timely health information to the public and patients. Traditional health information, however, has been based on facts and figures, not the experiences of patients. Many different types of information on Patient Experiences are available online in health information sites, social networking, reputation systems (an approach borrowed from e-commerce) and online support groups. Patient Experiences may support and inform people but equally people may make poor decisions if they identify with powerful stories that are not relevant to their circumstances. The key aim is to ensure the research findings impact on care quality and this is done in two ways – a direct public access website (healthtalkonline.org.uk) and through direct contact with NHS agencies, particularly NHS Choices.

Providing high quality patient centred care also depends on the engagement of health practitioners. The patient-practitioner interface lies at the heart of medical practice; but the nature of practice and the core tasks of medicine are deeply contested, as is the nature of the patient-practitioner interface that can best underpin them. As primary care embraces preventive medicine and the long-term care of long-term conditions the range of practitioners and their relationships with an increasingly educated public changes. The potential interfaces between practitioner and populations and individuals increase with technical innovation in communications. There is significant potential for conceptualising this interface as a focus for research.

Reviews of work in this area demonstrate the increasing gap between the effectiveness of potential for new technologies to contribute to prevention and treatment, and our understanding of how to deliver these treatments effectively. Without innovative work on how to engage effectively across the practitioner-patient interface it will not be possible to realise the increasing potential of the applications of medical science to reduce suffering and premature mortality. Key foci of the research undertaken to date have been communication of risk, non-pharmacological interventions (such as brief psychological treatments), medication adherence and smoking cessation. The main disease areas we are addressing include the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases, cancer, mental health, and chronic pain syndromes.