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Abstract

Patient engagement has become the buzz-phrase of 21st Century health care. Around the world, healthcare systems involve patients in a wide range of activities including drug development, research, and policy design. There are strong institutional pressures for patient engagement in healthcare activities that have been bolstered by ethical imperatives and social and organizational benefits from patient engagement. There is a trend to center efforts to cultivate engagement initiatives that are meaningful to patients and family. However, these efforts are characterized by multiple challenges, for example, tokenism and the lack of organizational support. These barriers may persist in healthcare professionals’ conceptualizations of patients as independent from the health system; healthcare professionals are active shapers of health services and patients are passive recipients. There is a growing need to address the scholarly confusion with the roles and expectations of patients in healthcare activities, and what strategies can support more meaningful and collaborative relationships between different groups. This paper uses the literature on shared mental models - knowledge structures that define the boundaries of collaboration between groups with distinct values and beliefs - to describe how the roles of patients in healthcare activities may be expanded. This paper deconstructs how technical and informal knowledge serves as a focal point for healthcare professional identity, and how this relationship between knowledge and professionalism creates an anchor for conceptualizing patients as professionals, collaborators, and decision-makers.

Experience Framework

This article is associated with the Patient, Family & Community Engagement lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework. (http://bit.ly/ExperienceFramework)

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