Patient engagement is today recognized as an important goal to improve healthcare. And probably it will become even more crucial in the next future. Someone recently stated that “Patient Engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century”!
I agree, I really believe that the ability to give (back) a starring role to patients in the process of healthcare management should be envisaged as an ethical, further than as a strategical, goal.
However, I also agree with the sharp critique that recently David Dressler posted on my blog: patient engagement today risks to be a mere idealization. Patient Engagement becomes a rhetoric claim rather than a real guidance to practice if we forget considering the organizational constraints in which Patient Engagement should be promoted.
This is true! The concept of engagement is relational in its nature. Advocating for patient engagement, thus, not only implies the deep consideration of patients’ needs, expectations and experiences of engagement; but it also requires the attentive consideration of healthcare professionals’ experiences, emotional burdens, resources and fatigues when they relate with patients and share the responsibility of their health.
As Barello and colleagues (2014) stated in their work – ‘Engage me in taking care of my heart’: a grounded theory study on patient–cardiologist relationship in the hospital management of heart failure – healthcare professionals play a crucial role in the process of patient engagement. They are the authoritative expert on whom patients relay for evolving in their engagement process.
However, in order to be really able to sustain patients along their engagement journey, healthcare professionals needs to learn how to fine-tune with patients engagement needs and priorities. In other words, healthcare professionals need to become better “patient engagement sensitive” in order to develop relational and communication skills able to sustain the patient in her/his engagement process.
But this is not easy, at least not yet. Healthcare professionals today are often left alone in the emotional and relational management of patients. They are “imposed” to better engage patients in their daily practices, but without receiving dedicated training and counselling. Healthcare professionals today are left alone at the front of patient engagement!
Further educational initiatives should be developed in order to train healthcare professionals to become able to engage patients. Patient engagement is not an individualistic fact: patient engagement is the result of a positive relationship between patients and healthcare professionals.
For successful patients engagement, it takes two!