Making Patient Engagement Meaningful and Measurable
(Join Health Quality Ontario CEO Dr. Joshua Tepper and patient advisors Emily Nicholas and Claude Lurette for a tweet chat to discuss this topic on Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00 p.m. (ET)).
Involving patients in the planning, delivery and assessment of health care is core to supporting high quality care. Involving patients helps us achieve patient-centredness which is one of the defining dimensions of a quality health system.
Last year, Health Quality Ontario released the province’s first Patient Engagement Framework to define a common approach for engagement across the province and guide people in planning for implementing and evaluating patient engagement activities across the health system from personal care to system-wide governance. Engaging patients at all levels is a relatively new process so such a framework is not intended to be set in stone and could evolve as more work is undertaken to understand the whole process.
But how does one make that engagement meaningful and how do you assess the impact of that engagement? How do we know engaging patients is making a difference?
As patient engagement becomes more prevalent, these questions take on more significance and will be the focus of our next tweet chat (#HQOchat) on Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
It is less common now for health care planning and delivery to be done without any patient involvement. The Canadian Medical Association has put “patient-centred” at the core element of its new strategic plan and the Health Standards Organization (formerly Accreditation Canada) now requires health organizations seeking accreditation to engage with patients and their families in a variety of ways to ensure they can deliver high quality care.
Better decisions are made when patients, families and caregivers are at the table. Across the province, Patient and Family Advisory Councils are being established, at all levels of care. At the provincial level, the Minister's Patient and Family Advisory Council will be advising government on key health care priorities and more locally, all Local Health Integration Networks now have advisory committees that support regional system planning and health system issues.
All of this affirms patient perspectives must be understood and respected.
As discussed in this blog earlier this year, meaningful patient engagement means more than just creating a patient council or putting a patient representative on a governing board. True patient engagement means ensuring these representatives or councils have the opportunity to provide real input at multiple stages of the health planning process, from inception to implementation. Patient experiences and perceptions can offer valuable insights that go beyond statistics about outcomes.
In a paper published two years ago, a team of Canadian researchers evaluated what patients, health care providers, and leaders say matters when it comes to meaningful patient engagement. They were told it was important that patient experiences and stories are not only heard but also appreciated and used to make changes to improve the system.
All of this is necessary, the report points out, to encourage development of a high quality health care system in Ontario.
And patient engagement is making a difference. As Dr. Tara Kiran from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto pointed out in a blog posted here recently, involving patients has resulted in a number of practical improvements like improving access to after hours care and communicating better with patients about wait times.
How to measure whether patient engagement is meaningful is another issue. Having structures in place that involve patients is only the first step. We need to consider how patient input is impacting the care people receive.
At the end of the day patients must have a say in whether they feel engaged with the health care system as individuals and as representatives of the most important stakeholder group in health care. But how this can be done effectively is still a matter of debate.
Join us on Twitter at #HQOchat on Wednesday, September 27 at 7:00 p.m. (ET) when we will moderate a discussion framed by the following questions. Please remember to use the hashtag for your comments and answers.
Q1 What does meaningful patient engagement mean to you?
Q2 Is there meaningful patient engagement in today’s Ontario health care system?
Q3 Do you have examples of where patient engagement has made a difference?
Q4 How would you measure the impact of patient engagement?