Leonard Kish coined the phrase that patient engagement is a blockbuster drug of the 21st century. What research has shown is that if you have engaged patients, you’re going to have better satisfaction, fewer medical errors, and better outcomes. Patients follow the regime of the treatment plan better if they’re engaged, if they understand what’s going on and they see the value to it. Patient engagement is a wonder drug especially in pain practice because the patients can tell you, if you listen, and you can learn so much about what’s wrong, what to do, and how they can be helped. If you Google shared decision aids, you’ll find a wealth of resources on the internet, including many that are available in the public domain that you can use with your patients to make decisions together. That’s so important. Patients need to understand what’s going on. You get better understanding and better follow-through if you make the decisions together.
Public policy today demands patient engagement. For example, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which was created by the Affordable Care Act, is investing heavily in patient-centered outcomes research that demands patient engagement. In fact, the patients have to be engaged, from forming the research question all the way through to disseminating results. You’re also seeing places like the Institute of Medicine talking about patient engagement. You’re seeing many policy makers and research institutes focusing on patient engagement, including National Institute of Health. When you submit a proposal now, you have to show how patients are engaged in your research, and hospital systems throughout the country are including patient engagement in their systems to improve care.