Patient engagement is increasingly recognized as an integral part of health care and a critical component of safe people-centred services. Engaged patients are better able to make informed decisions about their care options.
In addition, resources may be better used if they are aligned with patients’ priorities and this is critical for the sustainability of health systems worldwide.
People using health services are increasingly asking for more responsive, open and transparent health care systems.
They expect practitioners to engage them in the decision-making process, although individual patients may vary substantially in their preferences for such involvement. Health practitioners have multiple competing priorities, which may sometimes appear to conflict with patient safety.
These may include organizational, reputational, financial priorities and self-esteem, amongst others. However, patients have their safety and well-being as primary drivers and thus, they can raise this as a priority in the health care they receive. Patient engagement may also promote mutual accountability and understanding between the patients and health care providers. In most countries, primary care is often the first point of contact of patients with the health care system.
Therefore, primary care offers a good starting point for further engaging patients throughout the system. Primary care providers are ideally placed to engage patients in a dialogue about their health conditions, circumstances, health needs and personal values and preferences.
Informed patients are more likely to feel confident to report both positive and negative experiences and have increased concordance with mutually agreed care management plans. This not only improves health outcomes, but also advances learning and improvement, while reducing adverse events.