5 Gaps in Hospitals' Patient Engagement Strategies

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a new report on provider-patient engagement this week, titled Engaging Patients and Families in the Quality and Safety of Hospital Care. The study's authors sought to identify gaps between existing patient engagement tools and those that need to be developed. Here are a few of their key findings.

1. Strategies aren't attuned to patient and family member experiences of hospitalization. There are too few tools that are equally based on patient and family perspectives, prioritizing their experience, opposed to tools that are more reflective of health professionals and the organization. Strategies tend to coincide with hospital workflow. For instance, when and where a patient can become truly engaged in their care is left up to the hospital's schedule and patient flow — which is not patient-centered.

2. There is a lack of individual tools to support system-level strategies. System-level strategies for patient engagement may not include enough support to patients at the individual level. There is a lack of individual support for patient and family engagement at the organizational level, such as the creation of a patient and family advisory council. Some patients may not have organizational partnership skills but still want to be engaged in their healthcare at a higher level.

3. There is a lack of concrete, actionable support for individual users to engage in behaviors. Providing general information or instructing patients to ask a series of questions to their physician does not necessarily support their proactive approach to health. Tools may instruct patients on how to ask questions about medication and hand-washing, for example, but they stop there and do not incite action.

4. There are few complementary materials. If tools encourage patients to adopt a certain behavior, there should be accompanying training for nurses as well. Nurses can provide support and serve as facilitators for this healthy behavior. If they do not receive complementary training, the nurses could become barriers to the continued adoption of healthy habits.  

5. More nurse-patient communication materials are needed. Nurses tend to be on the frontline of quality improvement efforts, and there seem to be a large number of tools designed to improve nurse-patient communication. These might include department-wide use of whiteboards and bedside changes of shifts. These tools, however, should also include individual-level support for that communication.

More Articles on Patient Engagement:

6 Trends in an Era of Consumer-Driven Healthcare
4 Keys to Engage Patients and Operate in an Outcomes-Based Reimbursement Environment
5 Key Elements of a Patient-Engagement Strategy

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