Patient Engagement has been The Change Foundation’s primary focus over the past five years. An article written by President and CEO Cathy Fooks and fellow Change Foundation staff, The Patient Experience in Ontario 2020: What is Possible?, was recently published by Longwoods.com. The article examines the core elements of patient engagement, the progress being made in Ontario in relation to patient experience and engagement, and where we think Ontario will be five-years from now.
Pulling from the article, The Change Foundation shares reflections on considerations for effective patient engagement.
Patients and family caregivers don’t want the moon – it’s simpler than that.
They want straightforward and timely communication, shared decision making with a collaborative health care team, the knowledge that the system will support them at home or in a long term care or retirement home, and respect for their time and convenience.
Patient engagement is more than just being “nice” to people.
It’s always important to be empathetic, respectful, and polite, but ensuring patients have access to accurate health records, that hospital staff respond to call buttons promptly, and that health care teams communicate with families about care planning are a few factors, among many, that empower patients and their family caregivers.
Language and terminology are important when describing patient engagement and experience.
Discussion and debate around language and terminology means people are thinking about the meaning of words, what they convey and what we are trying to achieve for patient engagement. The process of coming to agreement on terms and language, in and of itself, can help to build partnerships and mobilize progress towards improved experiences of care. The Change Foundation came to agreement on the following definitions.
Facilitating access to health records by all providers would also go a long way in creating a more person-centred system.
Allowing patients to have their health records accessible, electronically or otherwise, would be a step in the direction of patient self-management, allowing individuals to more fully consider their health history in the decision making process and foster two-way communication with clinicians.
Evidence shows that meaningful patient engagement leads to better patient experience. That said, evaluation should be an ongoing focus to build a larger knowledge base.
In a systematic review of 55 studies, Doyle and colleagues (2013) concluded that “patient experience is positively associated with clinical effectiveness and patient safety…” and that “dimensions of quality should be looked at as a group and not in isolation.” Furthermore, Stone (2008) found that health care organizations that use a standardized patient centered model of care demonstrated shorter lengths of stay and a higher overall patient satisfaction score when compared to organizations that did not employ this model.
Organizations rated as highly patient-centered report that patient engagement is everyone’s job.
Everyone who works in health care needs to understand they contribute to the experience of patients and their families. In regional patient engagement workshops organized by The Change Foundation across Ontario, patients often commented that the most consistent person in a patient’s hospital room over time was the cleaning staff and that they often knew family members by sight.
Legislation and accreditation standards will create uptake, but the foundation for meaningful patient engagement starts with a commitment from the top.
Many encouraging signs exist for the increasing role of patient engagement. However, for more change to happen, more commitment and leadership is likely required.