Patient Engagement

People actively involved in their health and health care tend to have better outcomes—and, some evidence suggests, lower costs.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that patients who are more actively involved in their health care experience better health outcomes and incur lower costs. As a result, many public and private health care organizations are employing strategies to better engage patients, such as educating them about their conditions and involving them more fully in making decisions about their care. “Patient activation” refers to a patient’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage his or her own health and care. “Patient engagement” is a broader concept that combines patient activation with interventions designed to increase activation and promote positive patient behavior, such as obtaining preventive care or exercising regularly. Patient engagement is one strategy to achieve the “triple aim” of improved health outcomes, better patient care, and lower costs.

Barriers to shared decision-making include overworked physicians, insufficient provider training, and clinical information systems that failed to adequately track patients.

Despite evidence that has been compiled to date of the importance of patient engagement, experts in the field agree that more research will be needed to determine best practices for engaging patients, as well as to more fully demonstrate the relationship of patient engagement to cost savings. In the meantime, considerable efforts are under way to hold health care organizations accountable for engaging patients.

This Health Policy Brief summarizes key findings on patient engagement, and was published online on February 14, 2013 in Health Affairs.


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