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The difference between being an unengaged patient and an engaged patient could be likened to the difference between watching an exercise video versus getting up off of the couch and going to workout at the gym.

Are You an Engaged Patient?

Engaged patients are those who are active within the context of their health care environment. They’re willing to communicate effectively with the family members, providers, and friends on their health care team, and they’re the ones who ultimately make successful contributions to their overall health.

As a concept, patient engagement refers to idea that patients can and should take on a committed role in their health care instead of relying passively on providers for directions. In practice, patient engagement involves your ongoing activity in working with providers to manage multiple aspects of your personal care. 

The Benefits of Patient Engagement

The hallmarks of patient engagement include personal investment in a health treatment plan, patient activity, and constructive communication between patients and providers. When engaged patients work with engaged providers, benefits such as improved health outcomes, better patient care, and lower health care costs often follow. Many positive outcomes also stem from these three primary benefits, and patients who are actively engaged in their care will likely experience that a heightened level of personal involvement results in the following:

  • Reduced time spent in the hospital
  • Eliminating unnecessary office visits
  • Fewer complications while maximizing overall health
  • Improved confidence and increased feelings of control
  • Expanded knowledge of personal health care 
  • Fewer mistakes or errors in treatment 

If these positive outcomes aren’t enough to convince you that playing an active role in your health care can have outstanding positive outcomes, then also consider the pocketbook. In financial terms, the cost of not being an engaged patient is simply much greater than being an engaged one. Those who do not take an active role in their health care can expect a higher incidence of hospitalization and a greater likelihood of having to be readmitted to the hospital after being released. Extra office visits and follow up appointments can be expected, too, as can—you guessed it—a hefty medical bill.

Tips for Being an Engaged Patient

Good news:

Since being an engaged patient involves activity on the part of the patient, there are actual things that you can do to reap the many rewards. If you’re committed to becoming a more engaged patient, then these five key areas of activity will give you a great place to start.

Be a good student:

Before meeting with providers, take time to research areas of concern and write down questions you plan to ask. In appointments with providers, engaged patients ask important why and how questions to gain a deeper understanding of the treatment plan, rather than expecting to walk out of an appointment with a simple “do this, do that” approach. Understanding why specific medications have been prescribed, for example, is far more valuable than knowing what to take and when.

Communicate proactively:

In appointments with providers, plan to offer important details, even before you’re asked. In addition to making a list of key questions for providers, also make a list of items for discussion. If you have allergies or adverse reactions to medications, for example, communicate these details openly and proactively. Taking notes from meetings with providers also helps increase engagement and can give you a way to listen actively while keeping a record of communication for future reference.

Follow up and stay organized:

Engaged patients develop systems for organizing medical correspondence, records, and instructions. Keeping files for medical details in both paper and digital formats is helpful, as is updating those files regularly. Following up and reviewing details of treatment plans can give you a way to be active in checking for errors or mistakes. Comparing medications picked up from a pharmacy against the original prescription, for example, is a great way to be involved as a safeguard for personal health.

Create a culture of engagement:

Including others in a health care plan can be a great way to increase personal engagement. Family members or friends can attend provider meetings and help add to notes that you take, and they can also help serve as a resource for reminders. Patients who surround themselves with a caring community are likely to be more active in discussing concerns, sharing ideas, and asking for accountability in sticking to a successful health care plan.

Use technology and tools for extra support:

Advances in communications and medical technology make it possible for patients to be more engaged than ever before. Mobile phones can be programmed with alarms and reminders, and digital calendars simplify appointment and schedule organization. Mobile apps and online resources can also help streamline medical details, including the website Wellocracy, for example, which is devoted to helping patients discover the joys of integrating tools such as digital medical tracking and cutting-edge medical technology into everyday life.

Patient Engagement and Provider Support

If you want to boost your level of engagement, then you’re in luck because we’re equipped to support you. Think of our Care Coordinators as your coaches--or even as your personal trainers. Care Coordinators are assigned to work with patients on an individual basis, so they’re here to help you transition seamlessly among various care settings, from clinics to rehab facilities, from the hospital and back to your home.

Even though patient engagement involves activity on your part, our Care Coordinators can lend a listening ear or advise you about important steps to take, such as setting up follow-up appointments even before you leave the hospital or establishing ongoing health plans. After all, we know it’s easier to remain engaged when you don’t have to do it alone.

Senior Health Articles