Patient engagement is an important topic to discuss because it potentially leads to a future where everyone fully participates in their health care. For me, patient engagement is directly related to increasing health literacy, too. The more we engage, the more we learn. When this happens, we have the opportunity to live and lead a healthier life.
Patient engagement is more than a policy driven by governments and health care organizations. Although policies can provide a foundation for patient engagement, a grassroots approach may produce longer lasting results. Neighbor-to-neighbor and coworker-to-coworker conversations will build momentum in health literacy and healthy habits. Sharing of information learned can create a multiplier effect in understanding what patient engagement means for an individual and a community.
And, community is the key.
Patient Engagement Takes a Community
The patient engagement community includes patients (ordinary people trying to live the best, fullest life possible) and clinicians (doctors, nurses, lab technicians, physical therapists, and many more). This community is supported by processes and technology. Meaningful Use is driving many technology changes and, consequently, process changes. Both are very healthy as patient data is moving into an electronic format. Once in an electronic format, our data can move more freely to the appropriate people, all within certain privacy and security requirements (i.e., HIPAA).
The community element of this is essential. Within our community, everyone has a responsibility. Patients have a responsibility to learn and to understand the consequences of action and inaction in their personal care. Physicians have a responsibility to take the time and discuss with patients real health concerns and ways to address them. The supporting technology and processes have a responsibility to deliver and exchange patient data as defined by privacy and security agreements. Within this data flow, patients have the right to receive their own data and use it as they see fit.
Patient engagement cannot be one-sided. Patient engagement isn’t just for experts. Patient engagement is for a community to get involved and raise healthy awareness so we can all live more productive, healthier, and meaningful lives. Our health system also depends on a healthy, engaged community. By having everyone actively involved, health costs have a greater chance of decreasing and healthy trends have a better chance of increasing.
Finding the Right Health Leadership
Responsibility and accountability go hand-in-hand. As a community, we need to do self-checks and community-checks on how well we are engaging in our health care. Patient engagement doesn’t begin or end within the four walls of a doctor’s office. Patient engagement is something we do every day to live healthy, learn better habits, and engage others in health-related conversations.
Patient engagement extends beyond a clinical setting into our daily activities and interactions. This is where patient engagement converts into health leadership.
There are many elements to health leadership:
- Asking questions to engage in a meaningful, healthy conversation (physician to patient, patient to physician, nutritionist to patient, patient to nutritionist, etc.)
- Understanding nutrition labels and healthy eating habits
- Finding a routine that works for us and our abilities to embrace healthy habits (like exercise)
- Taking the time to understand and document our family medical history
- Taking the time to guide patients in their understanding of health conditions
- Making patient data easily and securely available
- Offering insights to a community of patients
There is much more to this list, but this is a start. Feel free to add your insights in the comments section on what is needed for each community member to raise their health leadership.
Several years ago, I wrote an article on What Is Your Health Leadership? We need to be more than engaged; we need to empower healthy relationships, conversations, and actions. We need to re-commit ourselves to take the lead in our health care. This is a community responsibility.
Patient engagement needs to reach areas outside of health conferences. We need to reach people in every physician office, hospital, grocery store, fast food chain, restaurant, and home kitchen around the world. This sounds daunting. When a community gets engaged, much good can happen. We just need to be open to each other and began to engage.
How will you build an engaging, healthy community?
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