Snapshot of people's engagement in their health care
Health care is one of many strategies we enlist in our effort to live our lives free of suffering.
A review of 31 national surveys performed by the Center for Advancing Health found that we do not actively and consistently
perform many of the actions directly linked to benefiting from the health care available to us.
The review of surveys conducted from 2001-2009 found that for the majority of engagement behaviors for which survey
data were available:
• One-third of American adults perform them consistently at this time.
• About one-third of people perform them inconsistently or tentatively.
• A final third do not perform them at all.
More of us appear to perform simpler tasks (e.g., make a list of medications) than more complex actions (e.g., make informed
treatment decisions). We seem to defer information- and advice-seeking until we have a specific need for it. And
the depth of our participation in any engagement behavior set tends to be shallow. For example, many more of us seek out
information about a provider or health plan than actually use the information to make a choice. Poor health, insufficient
knowledge, skills, confidence, lack of external support and insurance all hinder our ability to participate fully.
While we bear responsibility to engage actively and knowledgeably in our health care, we cannot do so effectively unless
health professionals and care settings welcome and encourage our participation.
The promise of health reform initiatives and legislation to improve care will only be achieved with increased engagement of
individuals. Health care professional organizations, consumer advocates, health plans, hospitals and government agencies
have critical roles to play in reducing barriers to our participation, producing better tools to support our engagement and
ensuring that health care is accountable to and with us.