In 2011, the Foundation launched an initiative to support community health center (CHC) consortia in building the capacity of their member CHCs to sustain and integrate best practices on patient engagement into clinic operations.
In anticipation of many low-income Californians gaining healthcare coverage through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the initial research driving the initiative, led by Langer Research Associates, sought to understand the expectations, aspirations, and concerns held by the most vulnerable Californians about their healthcare options and the potential benefits they might see from the coverage expansions mandated by the ACA.
In the following years, we worked to help consumers and providers maximize those benefits by sponsoring follow-up surveys to monitor progress in addressing the healthcare needs and choices of Californians and by supporting CHCs to innovate in testing and implementing new strategies to improve patient engagement in their own practices.
As the Foundation’s efforts expanded beyond research and toward testing and implementation, we learned that though the value of patient engagement was clear, the concept of what it looked like and how to implement it was less so. As a result, we took a layered approach to support the field in implementing patient engagement, starting first with the “basics” of patient and staff communication and facility planning, then evolving to more targeted strategies to implement complex transformational changes.
Patient engagement is no longer a standalone issue. It is now recognized as a critical building block to improving the health care safety net.
Awareness of the value of engagement has grown significantly among the health center field, and as of the end of 2017, more than 60 health centers have gone beyond testing of strategies to spreading them and integrating them into their operations. Through our support for the Center for Care Innovations (CCI), more than 1,000 health center leaders have been exposed to patient engagement innovation strategies through the Safety Net Innovation Network. Patient engagement has become a critical component to broader transformation efforts in the safety net, including value-based care, care integration, and whole-person care.
Patient engagement is no longer a standalone issue. It is now recognized as a critical building block to improving the health care safety net. As the Foundation moves forward with a focus on the social and clinical drivers of poor health and safety, continued attention to how we engage patients and their families—and communities more broadly—is more important than ever.
It's in the health care system where we see people at their most vulnerable. Though not all solutions to poor health will come from health care, safety net care plays an incredibly important role in our seeing, understanding, and addressing the needs of communities. And it's that connection that we must recognize as we move further forward together.