A Closer Look at Patient Engagement

Modern health care systems are complex and include various stakeholders and providers. Although most patients leave the responsibility of their well-being to healthcare professionals, they have an essential role as co-producers of their health.

Patients are also the only constant factor throughout the care pathway and have vital information that contributes to improving systems, processes and policies. Because this is such a rich source, tapping into it could significantly enhance primary care safety. Below, we discuss patient engagement, why it is crucial to include patients in improving healthcare, and how this can be best done.

What is patient engagement?

Patient engagement is a broad approach that combines patient activation – a patient’s skill, knowledge, ability and willingness to manage their health, with interventions to promote better patient outcomes. In simpler words, patient engagement refers to the interaction between a healthcare provider and a patient to make shared decisions regarding a patient’s health.

Patients who actively engage in their healthcare are more likely to lead healthier lives by making informed lifestyle choices. For example, if you are at risk of atrial fibrillation, partnering with your care provider will help you know how you reduce your chances of developing the illness. Partnerships between patients and healthcare providers result in positive patient outcomes.

Both sides need to communicate regularly for the success of the patient engagement. It is not enough for a nurse or doctor to reach out and give information or treatment options if patients are not interested in managing their health. When a patient is active in managing their health, but a provider fails to provide education and encourage patient involvement, patient engagement will not thrive.

Why is patient engagement critical in healthcare?

Patient engagement has become integral to health care, with patients increasingly asking for responsive, open and transparent healthcare systems. It is also a critical component for safe patient-centered services. While some patients expect care providers to involve them in making decisions about their health, some feel medical professionals are the experts and should follow their advice.

But it is essential to reckon that engaged patients make informed and better decisions about their care options and may not feel overwhelmed with critical health information. On the other hand, a patient who is adamant about learning or partnering with medical professionals lacks health literacy and may have challenges understanding basic information, including instructions on taking medication.

With patients increasingly asking for a more transparent and responsive healthcare system, patient engagement is becoming a critical component of safe patient-centered services and an integral part of healthcare. However, the preference to be involved in healthcare issues remains widely among patients. Some people using healthcare services expect a care provider to engage or involve them in their care options. Still, others feel like they should follow the advice of medical professionals since they are the experts.

Patients interested in knowing about their health status and taking active steps in managing their health make informed decisions. Also, they are less likely to feel overwhelmed by health information since they have established a relationship with their providers. Conversely, patients who are adamant about managing their health lack health literacy and may not make informed decisions. Additionally, they may be overwhelmed with essential health information, including instructions on how to take medications.

Benefits of patient engagement

  • Better patient knowledge and understanding

Patient engagement allows them to learn more about their health conditions via their care providers. As a result, patients become more informed about their condition and how it impacts their life. When patients have a clear and complete picture of their health, they become more receptive to treatment plans and better care for their health.

  • Improved patient outcomes

Improved patient outcome is the ultimate goal of establishing partnerships between patients and medical professionals. Patients’ overall well-being improves when they vest an interest in their health. An engaged patient is open to discussing or sharing positive and negative health changes with their provider because of their partnership. A partnership or collaboration encourages a patient to adhere to care plans, so they hold up their collaboration part.

The benefits of patient engagement not only apply to people who seek healthcare services but also to the providers. For example, patients are happier and may not hesitate to seek medical attention. Therefore, there are reduced risks of complications, and healthcare providers increase revenue – a win-win situation.

Engaging or involving patients is the key to efficient and effective health care delivery. It is beneficial to both people using health care services and medical professionals.

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