Since the Health Coalition of Alberta was originally formed in 2006, one of its core principles has been to ensure patient engagement in health care discussions and decisions. Although much progress has occurred since then, this remains an essential, over-arching element to our advocacy work.
There are many approaches and methods to involve and engage patients and their representatives for various reasons. Health Canada and the International Association for Public Participation (2005) describe different types and levels of involvement, depending upon the situation and circumstances. These methods include: inform/educate; information sharing; consultation/discussion; involvement; engagement and partnerships.
The Health Coalition of Alberta recommends engagement and partnerships with stakeholders as the preferred level. Engagement is used when:
- There is need to have individuals talk with each other and debate issues that are complex and value-laden;
- There is a capacity for individuals to provide good insights which could shape and influence decisions including policies that could or will impact them;
- There is an opportunity for shared agenda setting and open time frames for deliberation on issues;
- Options generated are respected and included in decision documents.
An identified outcome from the engagement process is that patients and their representatives will take responsibility in knowing they are part of the solution in making the health care system available, accessible, safe, effective, efficient, equitable, affordable and sustainable. To achieve this, they need to be meaningfully engaged.
Patients and their representatives should be engaged with decision-makers during discussions and decisions concerning health care delivery and improvement in quality and safety of care. The Alberta Government and its health care entities must meet this primary principle, along with transparency in health care decision making, in order to achieve patient and family centered care.