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Meet the Engaged Patients

Ellie Yu, Virginia Jamet & Katie Bryski   |   February 3, 2020

How involved are you in making decisions and taking action to improve your health and wellness? How confident do you feel navigating the health system?

With new opportunities provided by recent developments in digital health across Canada, more and more Canadians are taking their health care into their own hands — becoming engaged to improve their health outcomes. But who are these individuals, and how do they incorporate digital tools into their health care journeys?

In this two-part blog series, we’ll explore the intersections between engaging patients in their health care and emerging digital health services.

Pan-Canadian survey results

To start, we analyzed responses from Canada Health Infoway’s 2018 and 2019 surveys of Canadians. Engaged patient status was determined using the answers to two questions:

  • “How involved are you in managing your health in partnership with your health care providers?” and,
  • “How would you rate your confidence to participate with your health care providers to discuss and make decisions together that affect your health?”

We defined “engaged patients” as individuals who were both “confident” and “involved.” Based on available research evidence, we believe that neither confidence or involvement alone makes an “engaged patient.” The combination of the two is crucial for meaningful interactions that allow for the patient’s active participation in the treatment and management of their own health outcomes.

In the 2019 survey, we found that 45 per cent of the respondents were “engaged,” a slight increase from 42 per cent in 2018.

We also found significant associations between engaged patient status and the use of digital health services; specifically, electronic personal health records and electronic prescription renewals. In both years, our analyses demonstrate that patients with access to their personal health information report feeling more confident and involved in managing their health care. The same holds true for e-Rx renewal requests.

From our data, we can determine some additional demographic patterns. A greater percentage of engaged patients were:

  • 55+ years of age,
  • Female,
  • Diagnosed with a chronic health condition.

Benefits to Engagement

There are also relations between engaged patient status and potential mental health benefits. Although they are more likely to have a chronic disease, engaged patients are also more likely to positively self-rate their mental health. Compared to non-engaged patients, they use emergency and walk-in health services less.

Active involvement of individuals in their health care is a crucial component of person-centred care. By building empowered partnerships between patients and care providers, engagement helps patients make more informed decisions about their care and recognizes their vital role on the health care team.

Nationally, the percentage of Canadians who are “engaged” is growing and so are the benefits (1). In our next post, we’ll talk about pathways to patient engagement and its association with digitally-enabled health services.

Share your vision and stay informed!

The future of health care starts with you. Continue your own engagement and learn more at ACCESS 2022.

Work Cited:

  1. Valuing citizen access to digital health services: Applied value-based outcomes in the Canadian context and tools for modernizing health systems, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), 2019;21(6)


Additional Resources:

  1. Connecting Patients for Better Health: 2018
  2. Better Health Together Workshop: The Citizens’ Vision for Better Health through Digital Solutions
  3. What does it Mean to be an Engaged Patient?
  4. The Importance of Being an Engaged Patient