Objective: Advances in health care require that individuals participate knowledgeably and actively in their health care to realize its full benefit. Implications of these changes for the behavior of individuals and for the practice of patient education are described.
Methods: An "engagement behavior framework" (EBF) was compiled from literature reviews and key informant interviews. To assess the focus of research and interventions on the identified engagement behaviors, the EBF was used to code scientific sessions in professional conferences relevant to patient education in the US in 2006-2007.
Results: Many specific behaviors constitute engagement. Professional conferences on patient education show only modest attention to the full range of relevant behaviors.
Conclusion: People must make informed choices about insurance and clinicians, coordinate communications among providers and manage complex treatments on their own. Not doing so risks preventable illness, suboptimal outcomes and wasted resources.
Practice implications: Increased responsibilities of individuals, sick and well, to find and actively participate in high quality health care provides an opportunity for patient education researchers and clinicians to improve health outcomes by developing innovative strategies to support all individuals to effectively participate in their care to the extent possible.
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