Wendy Swanberg, Communications Project Assistant, National Program Office
This past February, the leading health policy journal Health Affairs devoted an entire issue to the theme of “patient engagement” – the concept that patients can have direct involvement in their own health care. Policymakers are starting to see patient engagement as something new and powerful, with one healthIT consultant calling it the “blockbuster drug of the century.”
There’s a growing contingent of patient advocates, led by people like Dave deBronkart/ePatient Dave, who are vigorously calling for patients to be equal partners in the health care decisions that impact their lives. At Project HealthDesign, we’re in full agreement with that idea, and we’ve been working since 2006 to bring patients’ voices squarely into the health care conversation.
As the Health Affairs issue makes clear, “patient engagement” is an evolving concept. We’re having a national conversation about the role patients should play in health decision-making at a number of levels, from the day-to-day management of illness to the very structure of the healthcare system itself. But even with this new attention to patients' voices and values, the conversation can still sound like a one-way transmission of medical instructions, laced with a kind of health-paternalism.
At Project HealthDesign, we want to broaden the dialogue and expand the definition of “patient engagement.” It needs to be a two-way conversation, between parties of equal status. Clinicians and providers are the trained experts in health care, but patients are the experts in their own lives and their own bodies. Working together, both can do much more to improve health care than either group could do alone.
As our project enters its final weeks, we invite you to explore the work we’ve done and listen to the conversations it has generated – including this second installment of our interview with ePatient Dave.
Watch our first ePatient installment, Envisioning the Patient-Centered EHR