The Institute of Medicine recently released a summary of proceedings, which gathered patients and health experts to consider the critical roles patients play as partners in improving and lowering the cost of health care.
All too often, patients are seen as consumers or passive participants, rather than engaged partners in health care decisions. The workshop, which was held in February 2013, happened over the course of two days and included 31 speakers.
Major themes of the proceedings included the following:
Culture dominates. “Culture eats strategy for lunch every time,” as mom-turned-advocate Cristin Lind noted. Thus, improving the quality of the care experience and using limited resources wisely will require significant culture shifts.
“Listen first, listen fully.” That’s what Ekene Obi-Okoye, a premedical intern at the University of California, San Francisco, learned as she supported patients with breast cancer. By listening first and listening fully, patient and caregiver voices are integrated fully into every possible level of decision making—care, system design, and policy making—and the quality of care improves.
Patient engagement is a skill, not a trait. Being an engaged patient and actively engaging patients are not intuitive skills. Patients and clinicians learn these skills over time and through partnership with a supportive care team.
Trust matters. Effectively delivering cost and quality information requires trusted translators who convey information in ways that are easy to understand.
Prepared, engaged patients are a fundamental precursor to high-quality care, lower costs, and better health. Achieving and exceeding these three basic aims of health and health care policy calls for partnering with patients as leaders and drivers of care improvement.