Framework Can Help Get Patients Engaged in Their Own Health Care

December 03, 2012 05:50 pm Sheri Porter

Many family physicians dream of having a practice filled with patients who are willing and eager to participate in decision making about their health and wellbeing. Help in reaching that point has arrived with the National eHealth Collaborative's recently released Patient Engagement Framework(

[Doctor shaking hands w/patient in exam room]

The framework, which is available for free, is designed to help health care professionals use health information technology to increase patient activation. The resource was created with assistance from a number of stakeholder groups and input from more than 100 individuals with experience in the fields of health care, patient engagement and behavioral science.

"The definition of patient engagement is fluid and constantly evolving," said Kate Berry, CEO of the National e-Health Collaborative. She told AAFP News Now that there is no correct answer when it comes to engaging patients.

"That is why the framework lists such broad options for engagement. It starts at a very basic level which demonstrates that even the simple task of providing printable forms for patients and giving them information to help them make better health care decisions is a step in the right direction," she said.

According to a Nov. 19 press release(, the framework outlines a series of phases to show how a practice can move from physician-centric care to more patient-centered care.

The framework, which is provided in a chart format, uses key words to describe five phases, all presented from the patient's perspective:

  • inform me,
  • engage me,
  • empower me,
  • partner with me and
  • support my community.

Each phase builds on the one before, with progressively more sophisticated tools for practices to consider implementing or providing to patients in categories including "e-tools," forms, patient-specific education, patient access, patient-generated data and collaborative care. For example, through the five phases, forms develop from printable patient forms to interactive online forms to electronic forms integrated within the electronic health record (EHR) to interoperable collaborative care records.

The framework's creators considered existing resources as well as CMS' requirements regarding meaningful use of EHRs.

Berry called the framework a "unique guide that could help family physicians take advantage of the plethora of new health care technologies that exist to engage patients." She urged physicians to use the framework as a guide for strategic planning around patient engagement.

"The framework tries to meet physicians where they are. It is very forward-looking. It is also mapped to meaningful use criteria, so it is intended to supplement much of the work that providers may already be doing to work toward those incentives," said Berry. "From secure messaging to mobile apps, there are many new ways in which patients can become partners in their care."

Materials released along with the framework include an explanatory slide set( and an archived webinar(