Patient engagement is important if you want to get the best out of your hospital stay and medical treatment in general. Here is a short primer to help you to become an active participant in maintaining your health and individualising the medical treatment to your specific needs.

What is patient engagement? 

Each patient is different. The way you deal with the disease and responds to treatment will differ from another patient. So, how can a doctor and the hospital provide individualised care that is tailored to your needs and medical condition?

All this is possible when you get actively engaged in your care and decision-making. As a result, you will be able to achieve the best experience while you are in the hospital. This in turn will maximise your health and disease outcomes. 

Why is it important?

Patient engagement improves the overall effectiveness of treatment and in particular the results of surgical management of a particular illness or condition. 

An active patient engagement can lead to:

  • Informed decision making.
  • Improvement in patient safety.
  • Reduction in adverse events. 
  • Improvement in medical condition.
  • Less complications after surgery.
  • Faster recovery.
  • Reduction in readmission for the same problem.
  • Reduced cost of treatment.
  • Improvement in overall quality of life after a surgical procedure.

What are the levels of patient engagement? 

Patient engagement is a journey. Some patients are naturally more engaged and take an active role in the treatment. But the majority will be in a spectrum which ranges from complete disengagement and not taking responsibility to total responsibility and always trying to learn more about their health and disease. In this journey there are four levels of engagement. 

Level 1: Disengaged and overwhelmed

“My doctor is in charge of my health.”

The patients are not engaged in their care plan and treatment. They make no attempts to learn about health or about the disease. As a result, they lack knowledge and do not participate in the decision making with their health care professionals. 

Level 2: Becoming aware but still struggling

“ I could be doing more for my health.”

The patient understands that they need to get engaged but lack the initiative. They get engaged to some extent in their care plan and treatment. They have some knowledge about their medical condition and their role in care and treatment. They can only set and achieve small goals. Overall, such patients, do not participate fully in their health care journey.

Level 3 : Taking action and gaining control 

“I am part of my healthcare team.”

At this level, the patient is not only familiar with the best practices for maintaining their health and controlling their diseases, but also follow them meticulously. They cooperate with their healthcare workers and participate in every aspect of care and treatment. 

Level 4: Maintaining behaviour and pushing it further

“I am my own healthcare advocate.”

In this highest level of patient engagement, the patient decides to continue following the best practices and maintains a healthy lifestyle to avoid falling sick again.

100% patient engagement ensures patient safety and achievement of optimal patient outcome. All these would ensure a safe and quick recovery time. Such a patient has a very low chance of getting readmitted to the hospital.

What is the role of a healthcare provider? 

Most of the patients are disengaged and overwhelmed (Level 1) by their health condition.They shift all responsibility of the treatment to their doctor and play a passive role in their healthcare. Most of the time they feel helpless and isolated. The healthcare provider should identify such patients and educate and engage them during all aspects of care delivery. Slowly the patient would first become aware of their health (Level 2) and move on to taking action and gaining control of their own health (Level 3). Over a period of time, what started as a choice would become a habit. The patient would not only maintain the behaviour but also push it further (Level 4) by adopting a healthy lifestyle even after surgery.

How can you become more engaged?

There are ten ways in which you can become more engaged when having a surgery. 

1. Improve your health literacy

When you become more engaged with your surgery, you will get more knowledgeable. This is called health literacy.

You can do this by asking questions and by clarifying facts before deciding. This leads to better understanding of the risks and benefits of the procedure, leading to more informed decision making. This improves communication, builds better rapport and trust. It also helps the doctor and her team to coordinate all aspects of your care from admission to discharge and even after you return home.

2. Get a second opinion

It is advisable to consider getting a second opinion from another surgeon or a healthcare provider before undergoing surgery. This can help you feel more confident in the decision to have surgery. It can also help you identify any other options/alternatives to surgery that may be available. 

3. Ask questions

Ask your healthcare provider any questions you may have about your surgery, including the risks and benefits, recovery time and any potential side effects of the surgery. It is natural to feel worried or scared before a surgery. Don’t hesitate to express your fear and concerns. And get all your doubts clarified as well. This can help you make an informed decision about the procedure and feel more confident about the process.

4. Understand the risks and benefits

A surgery is indeed beneficial to you. It may bring you back into shape. But there are some risks attached to the procedure. But, you don’t have to worry unnecessarily. Not everyone faces all the risks mentioned in the consent form. However, it is important for you to understand all the risks and benefits of getting the surgery, as well as the potential side effects and recovery time. Thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of the surgery before giving your consent.

5. Play an active role in the pre and post-surgery process 

You can play an active role in your care by participating in pre-surgery evaluations and post-surgery follow-up appointments. This can help you feel more in control of your care and can also help identify any potential concerns early on.

6. Take care of yourself before surgery 

You can take steps to be well prepared before your surgery and to improve your overall health before surgery. The steps include, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, practising relaxation techniques and quitting smoking or reducing alcohol consumption. This can help improve the chances of a successful surgery and ensure faster recovery.

7. Partner with your healthcare workers

Never hesitate to communicate your concerns to your surgical team. This can help you feel more comfortable and can also help the surgical team address any potential issues or concerns.

8. Understand your recovery process and make a post-surgery plan 

You should educate yourself on what to expect during the recovery process, including what to expect in terms of pain management and physical therapy. This can help you feel more prepared and can also help you set realistic expectations for the recovery process.

Always have a post-surgery plan – Make arrangement for transporting you from hospital after discharge, ask a relative or friend to help you with the daily tasks and discuss with the surgeon about the need for physical therapy, home healthcare or other support.

9. Join a support group

You can join a support group for people going through a similar surgery. This can provide you an opportunity to connect with others going through similar experiences, share information and gain emotional support.

10. Take control of your health and disease management 

You should continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle after surgery, take medicines as instructed by the doctor and go for follow up check-ups without fail. 

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