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“When patients participate more actively in the process of medical care, we can create a new healthcare system with higher quality services, better outcomes, and happier, healthier patients. We must make this the new gold standard of healthcare quality and the ultimate goal of all our improvement efforts: Not better hospitals. Not better physician practices. Not more sophisticated electronic medical systems. Happier, healthier patients.”

-Dr. Charles Safran (Ferguson, 2007)


  • Identify how technology can influence the engagement of patients in their own healthcare.

  • Evaluate new technologies and their potential impact in the healthcare arena.

  • Describe how a provider can assess levels of patient engagement.


Mentioned in the 1999 groundbreaking publication, “To Err is Human,” by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and as a national priority of the National Quality Forum in 2008, patient engagement has become a cornerstone of modern healthcare. As technology and our environment evolve, our healthcare, communication practice, and expectations evolve.

During this process, we reevaluate and challenge once-accepted practices. Over the past 20 years, technology and healthcare have changed how the patient is viewed, changed both provider and patient expectations, and completely altered how patients share in the decision-making process of their care plan. Patient engagement has been referred to as the “next blockbuster drug,” the “holy grail” of healthcare, and as a key to achieve the “Triple Aim” in healthcare of improved outcomes, better care, and decreased costs (James, 2013; Kish, 2012; Wilkins, 2012).


Read more about the Triple Aim in Chapter 17.

We like to think that we have engaged our patients in their healthcare. However, until recently, that engagement was lacking a key element: namely, data sharing. With recent advancements in communication and healthcare technology, along with legislative incentives, patients are now assuming an increasingly greater partnership role in their healthcare team.

Pew Research has found that 87% of adults use the Internet, and 78% have reported going online for health-related information in 2014 (Pew Research Center, 2014). The ultimate goal of this evolution is to create a better healthcare system centered on providing quality care that is efficient and inclusive of the patient.

We often think of “patient engagement” as simply including patients in every facet of their healthcare. Although this term sounds simple, it has been used synonymously in the literature with other terms—such as patient activation or as a part of patient-centered care—making its usage unclear. Although these terms all work toward the same goal, they have varied meanings and roles in the active process of patient engagement. Table 14.1 lists some of the common definitions for patient engagement found in the literature.

Table 14.1Common Definitions for Patient Engagement

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