Some consider patient engagement as the “holy grail” of healthcare because of its potential to revolutionize how we view and address health system problems. Multiple efforts around the world have attempted to cultivate a patient-centric culture whereby health services are grounded by the needs and preferences of patients. Recently, health service organizations are engaging patients in a wide array of activities including research and quality improvement. There are many ethical imperatives and economic and social benefits to patient engagement such as higher patient self-esteem and trust, and a more cost-efficient system. However, these benefits have been realized in some contexts and not others. Using the 3I framework (ideas, interests, institutions), this analysis examines two ideas that support (ethical imperatives and economic and social benefits) and one that opposes (negative attitudes and perceptions of patient engagement) a patient-centric culture. The first idea identifies the ethical imperatives that bolster the patient engagement movement and shift power and accountability to patients because of their role as taxpayers, users, and consumers of health services. The second idea describes the economic and social benefits associated with patient engagement and discusses why these benefits have been observed in some contexts and not in others. The final idea examines the negative attitudes and perceptions that healthcare professionals may hold of patients and patient engagement. These negative attitudes originate from an implicit belief that patients are separate components of the healthcare system; that healthcare professionals (clinicians and managers/administrators) design, deliver, and improve health services and patients receive them. We discuss the relevance of these three ideas for PE in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experience Framework

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