According to the 2013 White Paper from the Nursing Alliance for Quality Care, co-authored by Mary Jean Schumann: “Patient engagement is the involvement in their own care by individuals (and others they designate to engage on their behalf), with the goal that they make competent, well-informed decisions about their health and healthcare and take action to support those decisions.”
Why does patient engagement matter? It’s about getting to better health outcomes. Moreover, the impetus to move towards a patient engagement model must come from healthcare professionals, specifically nurses. Even when you have patients who are highly engaged and energized, says Schumann, the system does not necessarily reward them.
Schumann outlined nine guiding principles of patient engagement, beginning with partnership between providers, patients, and the families of the patients. At minimum there needs to be two experts in the room. Each has knowledge that the other needs in order to reach a good outcome. Patients know about themselves, their preferences, values, and resources, whereas the healthcare team member understands the medical evidence, including risks and relative odds of different outcomes.
Nurses and others must practice a person-centered approach to healthcare delivery and be willing to fully support patients as they encounter obstacles in the healthcare system. Healthcare professionals must also embrace and continuously support the belief that patients and families are or can become competent to engage fully in making informed decisions about their own health and healthcare.