Everyone agrees that it’s a good thing, and that we healthcare providers should be fostering it.
How to do so, however, depends on just what you believe patient engagement means.
As Dan Munro recently pointed out, the term “patient engagement” is a hot buzz phrase, and – in the best tradition of such phrases – it’s amorphous enough and appealing enough to mean…just about anything.
Provided that it that makes us feel good about healthcare, of course. Better yet, provided that it casts our favorite healthcare approaches in a favorable light. (Rob Lamberts nicely summarizes some angles of the term here.)
I actually rather liked Munro’s post, titled “Patient engagement: Blockbuster Drug or Snake Oil?” until he got to this part: “We now have some very real metrics around what constitutes real patient engagement and Leonard highlighted two impressive examples.” He goes on to point to two studies of care coordination for chronic illness — one at Kaiser and the other at the VA – and summarizes some key improvements in outcomes.
At Kaiser, they included things like decreased mortality rates and fewer emergencies, as well as improved cholesterol screenings and more people meeting cholesterol goals. With the VA’s Telehealth program, hospital days were reduced and patient satisfaction was 86%. (BTW, I had a VA primary care clinic from 2006-2010, and several of my patients were in Telehealth.)
These are indeed nice results. Still, somehow they didn’t impress me as constituting “real patient engagement.” They seemed more like “real population health management, facilitated by teams, care coordination, communication infrastructure, and organized protocols.”
Shouldn’t real patient engagement mean more than this?
Defining patient engagement
Here’s my current take:
Supporting patient engagement means fostering a fruitful collaboration in which patients and clinicians work together to help the patient progress towards mutually agreed-upon health goals.