A conceptual review of engagement in healthcare and rehabilitation

Disabil Rehabil. 2015;37(8):643-54. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2014.933899. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


Purpose: This review sought to develop an understanding of how engagement in healthcare has been conceptualized in the literature in order to inform future clinical practice and research in rehabilitation. A secondary purpose was to propose a working definition of engagement.

Methods: EBSCO and SCOPUS databases and reference lists were searched for papers that sought to understand or describe the concept of engagement in healthcare or reported the development of a measure of engagement in healthcare. We drew on a Pragmatic Utility approach to concept analysis.

Results: Thirty-one articles met the criteria and were included in the review. Engagement appeared to be conceptualized in two inter-connected ways: as a gradual process of connection between the healthcare provider and patient; and as an internal state, which may be accompanied by observable behaviors indicating engagement.

Conclusion: Our review suggests engagement to be multi-dimensional, comprising both a co-constructed process and a patient state. While engagement is commonly considered a patient behavior, the review findings suggest clinicians play a pivotal role in patient engagement. This review challenges some understandings of engagement and how we work with patients and highlights conceptual limitations of some measures.

Implications for rehabilitation: Engagement appears to be a multi-dimensional construct, comprising both a co-constructed process and a patient state. Conceptualizing engagement as a co-constructed process may help clinicians be more aware of their role in patient engagement and sees the responsibility to engage shift from the patient to the therapeutic dyad. Challenges in engagement may be a prompt to reflect on how the clinician is working and whether different ways of working may be beneficial.

Keywords: Adherence; clinical practice; compliance; engagement; healthcare; participation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Patient Participation*
  • Rehabilitation*