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Arnold School of Public Health

Researchers to develop nationwide Virtual Patient Engagement Studio focused on COVID-19

December 3, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Building on the success of the UofSC Patient Engagement Studio – and its virtual platform (the VIP Studio) for engaging hard-to-reach groups  – researchers Nabil Natafgi and Ann Blair Kennedy, will use an 18-month, $200K award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to create a COVID-19-Focused Virtual Patient Engagement Studio. The CoVIP Studio will provide a virtual setting where researchers can develop, enhance and disseminate patient-centered studies and evidence on the long-term effects of COVID-19 and its disproportionate impacts on certain populations.

“Like other sectors where COVID-19 has redefined previous practices, this pandemic has pushed researchers to rethink how they can best engage patients in research,” says Natafgi, an assistant professor in the Arnold School’s Department of Health Services Policy and Management with expertise in telehealth and patient-centered outcomes.

As co-principal investigators of a 2020 PCORI funding award, Natafgi and Kennedy leveraged technology to engage hard-to-reach patients with diabetes through the VIP Studio. “With this project, we will adapt and scale-up the VIP Studio that we developed last year to reach and engage diverse nationwide stakeholders,” says Kennedy, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the UofSC School of Medicine Greenville and Director of the Patient Engagement Studio. “Like we did with the diabetes-focused project, we will use technology to remotely connect with COVID-19 patients and caregivers through the CoVIP Studio.”

In the past couple of years, national research institutions have been providing millions of dollars to fund projects related to COVID-19. However, the apparent lack of diverse patient input in fast-paced COVID-19-focused research may contribute to a lack of pertinent, patient-relevant interventions and information.

The investigators plan to identify and reach out to COVID-19 patients, caregivers and stakeholders from all four geographical regions in the United States. Then, they will provide training and team building sessions prior to reviewing research projects related to COVID-19.

The CoVIP Studio can help other scientists conduct more patient-centered research using the funding that the National Institutes of Health has already allocated for COVID-19 studies. Natafgi and Kennedy’s long-term goal is to expand the use of this model to other populations and health conditions.

If you are interested in being involved with the CoVIP Studio or to present your research to the studio to gain feedback from patients, please email:

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