3 Lessons for Engaging Patients in Their Health Care

05 Mar 2014

Quality Field Notes features key lessons learned by regional alliances of clinicians, patients, and payers in Aligning Forces for Quality communities as they work to transform local health care and provide models for national reform. The third topic in this series focuses on how engaged patients can lead to improved health and health care. Patients without the skills to manage their health care incur costs up to 21 percent higher than those of patients who are highly engaged in their care. Patient engagement starts with giving patients the tools they need to understand what makes them sick, how to stay healthy, and what to do if their conditions get worse. And it means empowering patients to work with clinicians.

Three case studies highlight lessons learned from three Aligning Forces for Quality communities:


Educating patients about their health empowers them with the knowledge they need to stay healthy on their own. Since 2008, Aligning Forces Humboldt has engaged more than 1,000 patients in its Our Pathways to Health chronic disease self-management workshops. The six-week program helps patients with chronic conditions—including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain, and heart conditions—learn how to manage their conditions in a supportive environment with peers facing similar challenges. The Detroit Alliance has since launched a similar program to engage patients in their own health.


Aligning Forces Humboldt and Aligning Forces for Quality—South Central Pennsylvania (SCPA) both work with local primary care practices to incorporate Patient Partners into quality improvement teams. Clear expectations, structured meetings, and asking patients for feedback through meeting evaluations increases the satisfaction of both patients and clinicians. Patient Partners has helped practices adopt new techniques to provide better care, from giving parents a laminated reminder card to schedule well-child visits on their way out of the office to creating “brown-bag medication review” appointments so patients and their doctors can review all their medications.


Involving patients in programs to improve the overall health and health care in a community helps ensure that the population’s needs are understood and met. With this in mind, Massachusetts Health Quality Partners (MHQP), leader of the AF4Q initiative in the Greater Boston area, decided to include patients in its leadership by creating the Patient and Public Engagement Council. By fostering relationships with patient leaders, MHQP receives valuable feedback on high-stakes projects, like its recent work with Consumer Reports to develop the publication’s first-ever rating of patient experiences with nearly 500 primary care offices in Massachusetts.

Available materials include a resource guide, case studies from AF4Q, interview transcripts, and more. View the entire suite of resources here.