How providers can engage, empower patients

As healthcare becomes increasingly patient-centered, providers must engage their patients and empower them to become partners in their own care, argues a Health Affairs blog post.

Patient engagement on a grand scale will be an uphill struggle, but not impossible, write Susan Edgman-Levitan, executive director of the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tejal Gandhi, M.D., president of the National Patient Safety Foundation and the NPSF Lucian Leape Institute. For one thing, there's widespread confusion on what constitutes engagement. There are also issues relating to health literacy, flaws in the healthcare system's infrastructure and a care model that discourages patients and clinicians from voicing concerns for fear of seeming difficult.

In addition to universal problems, there are obstacles at the system level, they write. Edgman-Levitan and Gandhi cite NPSF Lucian Leape Institute Chairman Lucian Leape, M.D.'s lectures on the culture of disrespect among medical professionals, which also prevents them from fostering good patient relationships.

Healthcare organizations  must  take steps to actively involve patients in the care process, authors recommend. For example, they should provide open access to clinical records, implement open hospital visitation policies, and encourage patients and their families to participate in initiatives like quality and safety oversight committees and quality improvement activities.

"Including patients and families in quality improvement and in the design of care processes will give clinicians and staff important perspectives and spark ideas that may be wholly different from their own knowledge," they write. "And when things do go wrong, clinicians will be skilled at providing support and resources to patients."

Hospitals' chief financial officers also have a major role to play in patient engagement by promoting increased price transparency, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And many physicians say it's vital for patients to take the initiative in their care, either through making a list of medical complaints, contacting their provider about test results if they don't hear back in a timely manner or giving schedulers as much information as possible, according to FiercePracticeManagement.

To learn more:
- read the blog post