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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The importance of patient engagement

Recently, doctors at three hospitals in the U.S. made their medical notes available to patients. This included test results as well as detailed descriptions of the doctors’ diagnosis and treatment plans.

Why make the notes available? At the end of the year, Dr. Joann Elmore (the study’s author) said patients said it made them feel more competent in taking care of themselves, and that they better understood their medical issues and how to take medication appropriately.

Of the 5,390 patients who responded, 77-87% said they felt more in control of their care, and 60-78% reported increased adherence to medications.

We at the Health Council recognize the importance of engaging patients in their own care. In 2011, we reported that engaged patients perceived themselves to be healthier, and made better use of the health services and resources in the system.

Unfortunately, we found that only 48% of Canadians reported feeling involved and engaged in their own health care. Since engaged patients are more likely to actively participate in disease prevention, screening and health promotion activities – this is worrisome.

We hosted a National Symposium on Patient Engagement last year in Toronto, as well as a town hall on this topic in Vancouver. We are continually confronted with the importance of patient engagement and the need to include patient voices when designing and delivering health services in Canada. Read our full report on patient engagement in Canada here.

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