5 steps hospitals can take to promote patient engagement

The American Hospital Association released a new guide Monday that outlines the five steps hospitals can take to fully engage patients and their families.

The guide, issued as part of the AHA's Hospital in Pursuit of Excellence initiative, offers evidence-based strategies to help hospital leaders promote patient and family engagement in their organizations.

"Patients and families have different beliefs, preferences and values that can affect their choices for end-of-life care, communication with providers, diet and family presence," the report notes. "Creating an organization with systems and processes that can identify and adapt to diverse patient needs and with staff trained to effectively use these systems is a priority" of every hospital leader.

"A Leadership Resource for Patient and Family Engagement Strategies" suggests hospital leaders follow these five strategies:

1. Develop a clear vision--Discuss patient and family engagement with your senior leadership team; elicit input from your board, staff and patient and family representatives; allocate time during meetings with senior leaders, staff and the board to hear and tell stories about engagement successes and shortcomings.

2. Determine improvement opportunities--Get feedback from senior leaders, staff, and patients and families about patient engagement efforts; use assessments to identify strengths and gaps; review existing policies, processes, position descriptions and training programs to determine they include patient and family engagement; and discuss findings and conclusions with leaders, staff and patients to create awareness and lay the groundwork for improvement projects.

3. Prioritize and plan--Assess the options for strengthening patient and family engagement; set priorities based on needs and input from key stakeholders; equip and empower staff to support the engagement strategies you are implementing; anticipate barriers and intervene to overcome them.

4. Monitor progress--Select measures that can help you determine whether processes and outcomes are changing; ensure systems are in place to quickly collect and share needed data; compile results in an easy-to understand format and monitor these results; share the results with staff, senior leaders, the board, community and the public.

5. Provide ongoing implementation support--Review journals, white papers and tools to remain fully informed about the growing body of information about patient and family engagement. Among the resources listed is AHRQ's Guide to Patient and Family Engagement, a guide released in July that provides four evidence-based strategies that will help hospitals eliminate communication gaps among patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the AHA announcement
- check out the guide (,pdf)