3 ways to boost patient engagement

Successful patient engagement programs require three essential components, according to a new brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Patient engagement "means motivating and empowering patients to work with clinicians--to be active participants in their care by asking questions, knowing their medications and medical history, bringing friends or relatives to appointments for support, and learning about care that may be unnecessary," the brief states. "It can also mean giving them a seat at the table to improve the care that hospitals and doctors' offices provide."

The brief provides first-hand accounts and lessons learned from organizations that successfully implemented patient engagement strategies. They found that the best programs include the following components: 

  1. Transparency: Two programs, Aligning Forces Humboldt (Calif.) and Aligning Forces for Quality-South Central Pennsylvania, found increased transparency helped patients understand the system and how it worked, according to the brief. "The groups have found that clear expectations, structured meetings and asking patients for feedback through meeting evaluations increases the satisfaction of both patients and clinicians," the brief states.

  2. Engagement: Patients involved in their own care do a better job of communicating their own needs, according to the brief. Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, which serves the greater Boston area, created the Patient and Public Engagement Council to give providers feedback and foster patient-physician relations.

  3. Collaboration: Aligning Forces Humboldt offers workshops that assist patients with management strategies for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart conditions and obesity. "Initially, the program relied on word-of-mouth recommendations from enthusiastic alumni, public service announcements and newspaper articles to recruit attendees," the brief states. "Those efforts didn't go far enough, however, so program leaders began working with doctors' offices to refer patients with chronic illnesses."

Patients fall in three engagement levels, according to an American Institutes for Research framework. There are first-level patients, who begin to engage in their own care; second-level patients, who actively give providers their input; and third-level patients, who work to improve care delivery at the institutional and regulatory level.

Patient engagement that strengthens the doctor-patient relationship can also substantially narrow the income-based healthcare gap, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the brief (.pdf)
- here's the patient framework