Consensus is emerging in the health policy community that informed and engaged consumers have a vital role to play in improving the quality of care that the U.S. health system delivers to patients. The question is how to ensure that they have the tools and information they need to play the role that is being asked of them. A new series of briefing papers sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and AcademyHealth provides some answers, along with a roadmap for future research.
The briefing papers are the products of a colloquium that RWJF and AcademyHealth held in February 2007 at which a select group of health policy experts discussed key aspects of the consumer engagement issue. They included Michael Chernew, Ph.D., Jonathan Kolstad, Ph.D., Albert G. Mulley Jr., M.D., M.P.P., Karen Sepucha, Ph.D., Shoshanna Sofaer, Dr.P.H., Judith H. Hibbard, Dr. P.H., Floyd J. Fowler, Jr. Ph.D. and Diana L. Stilwell, M.P.H.
Consumer engagement holds great potential to spur health quality improvements, particularly in improving patient safety and treatment decision-making.
Consumer engagement must not be viewed as a silver bullet; consumers have neither the power nor the skills to transform health care systems on their own.
Change will require a joint effort on the part of consumers, providers, payers, insurers and policy-makers.
The series is available online from RWJF and AcademyHealth.