AHRQ offers evidence-based patient engagement tips

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) this week released a new guide that gives hospitals patient engagement strategies. The four evidence-based strategies will help hospitals eliminate communication gaps among patients, their family members and healthcare providers, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services agency announced Monday.

The guide was tested and evaluated at 200-bed Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago,  324-bed Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md., and 76-bed Patewood Memorial Hospital in Greenville, S.C.. It instructs hospitals to:

1. Form patient-family advisory councils

2. Improve front-line communication

3: Explain bedside shift reports

4: Engage the family and patient in discharge planning 

The guide offers tools, training materials and real-world examples for implementing each of the evidence-based strategies.

With the first strategy, hospitals incorporate the patient's perspective into the planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare services, the AHRQ noted. For example, hospitals can work with patient and family advisors to revise patient and family handbooks, informational videos or care instructions.

To implement the patient and family advisor strategy, the AHRQ guide recommends identifying a staff liaison to oversee and coordinate with advisory council members. Hospital staff also can hand out postcards to people they think would make good patient and family advisors.

Following the second strategy, hospitals can foster better communication before admission. Patients and families should receive three tools at or prior to admission that include the hospital name, logo and tailored information. Moreover, the guide recommends having the bedside nurse review the tools with patients and families on the day of admission.

To ensure safer handoffs, strategy three calls on hospital staff to briefly explain the process at each shirt change and invites the patient and family to take part in the bedside shift report. The guide recommends having the patient define who can be present during the bedside shift report, as well as use a door hanger that says either "please wake me for my for shift report" or "please do not disturb."

The fourth strategy aims to engage the patient and family in discharge planning using the IDEAL framework. IDEAL encourages hospital staff to include the patient and family as full partners in the discharge process, discuss ways to prevent problems at home, educate in plain language, assess how well doctors and nurses explain matters, and listen to and honor the patient and family's preferences and concerns.

The new AHRQ guide adds to federal efforts to engage patients in their own healthcare, which U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park highlighted at the Health Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C. last month, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

For more:
- here's the AHRQ announcement
- check out the guide