Guiding Principles for Patient Engagement

by Howard Gerber on August 23, 2012

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Guiding Principles for Patient Engagement

In the effort to create a more sustainable healthcare system, the concept of patient engagement has garnered plenty of attention. Recently, the Nursing Alliance for Quality Care (NAQC) recently released guidelines for high-quality care that directly involves the patient. NAQC hopes to get the nursing community onboard in order to improve patient outcomes by improving communication and information flow. Many of the guidelines will be familiar to nurses, since their jobs traditionally include ongoing interaction with patients and their families, but the intent is to provide a consistent care framework with established standards for patient engagement.

The Guiding Principles for Patient Engagement 

  • There must be a dynamic partnership among patients, their families, and the providers of their health care, which at the same time respects the boundaries of privacy, competent decision-making, and ethical behavior.
  • This relationship is grounded in confidentiality, where the patient defines the scope of the confidentiality.
  • Patients are the best and ultimate source of information about their health status and retain the right to make their own decisions about care.
  • In this relationship, there are mutual responsibilities and accountabilities among the patient, the family, and the provider that make it effective.
  • Providers must recognize that the extent to which patients and family members are able to engage or choose to engage may vary greatly based on individual circumstances. Advocacy for patients who are unable to participate fully is a fundamental nursing role.
  • All encounters and transactions with the patient and family occur while respecting the boundaries that protect recipients of care as well as providers of that care.
  • Patient advocacy is the demonstration of how all of the components of the relationship fit together.
  • This relationship is grounded in an appreciation of patient’s rights and expands on the rights to include mutuality.
  • Mutuality includes sharing of information, creation of consensus, and shared decision-making.

More effective care

There are a number of arguments in favor of patient engagement. For example, when dispensing hospital exit instructions or prescriptions, patients are often too intimidated, overwhelmed, or sick to ask if they don’t understand something. Engaged patients feel more empowered to ask the right questions, and home care outcomes often benefit from the additional information. With open communication, nurses are better able to spot potential weak spots in treatment, like patient reluctance to take certain medications.

Better financial outlook

Patient engagement also addresses a cost/complications factor. Patients who have a relationship with their caregivers are more apt to follow instructions, ask questions, and report problems and side effects. Preventative care is high on the list for controlling costs, both for the patient and for the provider.

What will you do with this information? Will the new guidelines affect the way you interact with patients, or do you already have a high level of patient interaction? Do you think healthcare in general and patient outcomes will benefit from these measures?

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