Herpes simplex keratitis (HSK) is a sight-threatening disease and a leading cause of infectious corneal blindness. Involving patients in setting the research agenda maximises patient benefit and minimises research waste. With no published patient involvement exercises, patients’ priorities in HSK are unclear. The objective of this study is to explore patients’ priorities for research in HSK.
A literature review of publications in the year preceding recruitment of patients identified nine domains of research interest. A questionnaire was sent to participants asking them to rank these in order of priority. The ranking results were given a weighted-average score, and a thematic analysis was undertaken for the narrative data.
Thirty-seven patients participated in the survey. Top priorities for patients were risk factors for recurrence of infection, diagnostic tests and treatment failure. The narrative data revealed three key clinical needs: difficulties in long-term symptom control, the need for rapid access care in acute infection and the desire for more accessible information.
This study highlighted three major issues in our current approach to HSK. First, there may be a misalignment between research efforts and patient priorities. Second, high-quality patient information is not widely available. This may hamper patients’ abilities to make informed decisions and contribute towards research. Third, clinical service priorities are of equal importance to patients as research. Researchers and clinicians are encouraged to address both needs in parallel.