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Involving Patients – How to Do It

A high-quality health care system cannot exist without the active and meaningful participation of patients and the public.

Engaging patients means more than just informing them about what is happening or consulting with them about what is best. Patient engagement is a partnership between patients, caregivers and health care providers with interaction that involves the entire team and has influence on the decision-making process.

While front line health organizations and clinical providers in Ontario are used to involving patients and the public in their work, true patient engagement may be more challenging for planners and policy-makers used to working in a more traditional system.

It is for this reason that we at Health Quality Ontario are pleased to unveil the province’s first Patient Engagement Framework to provide organizations and those they serve with direction about how to approach engagement.

The goal of the framework is to develop a strong culture of patient, caregiver and public engagement to support high quality health care. This engagement is deemed as essential for improving quality as it brings a key source of lived experience and insight to the table.

The framework is the result of months of research and draws on findings of an international environmental scan, as well as extensive consultations with patients, caregivers, clinicians, health organization CEOs, CEOs of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), patient engagement experts, researchers from here and abroad, and the public.

What we heard is that patients have a strong interest in being engaged in their care planning and delivery and that patient participation is seen as necessary, not only in direct care, but at all levels of the system – health care organizations, LHINs, and ministry levels included. The approach outlined by Health Quality Ontario enhances trust because providers can demonstrate to patients that they are doing their best to understand their perspectives.

The Patient Engagement Framework will help organizations across the province align their projects and activities with others and to better understand:

  • The different levels of care that engagement can take place at – at the direct care level, organizational level and provincial level
  • The different approaches for patient engagement
  • Key enablers and guiding principles for patient engagement, and considerations for how these affect your engagement projects and activities

The framework also helps patient advisors and other patients and members of the public understand where they fit to partner for better health, whether it be at the individual level or in developing policy or programs at an organizational or provincial level. It recognizes that to be engaged, patients must have easy access to health information they can understand, be it for their own care or to partner in policy or program development.

It adds to the hub of resources Health Quality Ontario makes available to those wishing a better understanding of patient engagement in order to inform and inspire high quality care.

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