During the consultation, we learned valuable lessons about organizing priority consultations on a national basis. Some lessons have to do with the overall process and others concern the design of the workshops per se.

Overall process

  • It is quite possible to set a national agenda for applied health services and policy research themes within six months.
  • It is a good idea to carry out a joint exercise for it avoids tapping in on the same people (consultation participants) more than once. We found there was enough overlap of interest between major health services and policy research related organisation to undertake a valid joint exercise.
  • It is useful to conceive the process with validation steps - use of multiple sources, international comparisons, follow-up surveys - embedded into it. It helps ensure that both the data collected and its synthesis are accurate and well-founded.
  • Although the differences in issues raised across the various regions are not great, it is still helpful to do each workshop regionally and independently for three reasons. Some issues may be expressed more strongly in one region, which might lead to different weighting of the issue during the synthesis. The workshop participants may feel they voice their own region's issues without being influenced by other regions' issues. The process is logistically easier to carrying out (use of same framework from one workshop to the other, easier to manage smaller groups, etc.).
  • Although logistics required the workshops to be held in major cities, participants were still able to represent and identify a range of key health services and policy issues related to rural and remote health.

Design of Workshops

  • It is important to clearly distinguish immediate issues from longer issues. By creating a 'catharsis' exercise where participants put forth their immediate issues at the beginning of the workshop, it is ensured they focus on longer-term issues during the rest of the day.
  • It is important to clearly distinguish between health services issues and health services RESEARCH issues (these being related to research funding, strategically using/accessing/improving/validating health information data, need for multidisciplinary research, etc). Some of the discussions may stray from the main focus of the workshops.