Supporting Patients’ Engagement in Their Health and Health Care


Providing more patient-centered health care has attracted interest from a wide range of stakeholders. Principles that characterize such patient-centered care often describe the responsibilities and attributes of the professionals and institutions that deliver such care. Included in these principles are general accounts of how patients should be treated: that their preferences should be respected, their emotional needs attended to, their autonomy supported and their decisions shared with families and the care team.

What is often lacking from the descriptions of patient-centered care is the recognition that patients are not merely the objects of care, but rather that they are full-fledged participants in it – and that unless that participation is active and informed, the beneficial impact of health care, whether services, drugs, surgery or devices, is severely muted. People who are unable to seek care when they need it, who don’t fill their prescriptions, who delay their colonoscopies indefinitely or who keep smoking – regardless of the reason – place their own health at risk, waste human and material resources and incur unnecessary expense to themselves and others.

Given the current interest in patient-centered health care, we offer providers and policymakers two modest approaches to ensure that their efforts to deliver more patient-centered care also supports patients’ ability to participate actively in their own care.

Read the full Supporting Patients' Engagement in Their Health and Health Care white paper