Finding the Facts of Healthcare Consumer Engagement and Shared Decision-Making @carlofavaretti

Max Hardy in

Just what is the general attitude of Australian health professionals to the practice of consumer and community engagement and shared decision-making?

That’s the very question we sought to answer via Twyfords’ just-completed national survey. Targeted at a wide cross-section of health professionals including executives, administrators, clinicians, academics and policy designers, our questionnaire was designed to ascertain:

• the perceived value of engagement in improving healthcare strategies
• the perceived value of shared decision-making in improving health outcomes
• the extent to which engagement and shared decision-making initiatives are resourced
• the types of benefits derived from engagement and shared decision-making
• the prevailing awareness around various methodologies

As far as we know, ours is one of the first attempts to examine and understand attitudes towards consumer engagement and shared decision-making within the Australian health sector.

Lack of benefit awareness

One message that rings out loud and clear is that awareness of recent research regarding the benefits of patient, consumer and community engagement is sorely lacking. Survey participants also indicated that such initiatives are under-resourced. Awareness around alternate and contemporary engagement approaches also seems to be limited. On the positive side, most survey participants believed their organisations benefited from whatever investment they made into working collaboratively with their consumers. Other respondents, meantime, believe their organisations don’t value consumer engagement at all, regarding any consumer involvement as merely tokenistic.Considering that research has demonstrated patients with a strong input into decision-making around their individual health plans are more likely to comply with those plans, this is a disappointing realisation. Indeed, for example, if patients feel they are being dictated to rather than listened to by healthcare professionals, it perhaps stands to reason they may be less likely to fully embrace a prescribed healthcare plan.

A readiness for change

 When it comes to grasping the full value and significance of shared decision-making and health consumer engagement, it’s fair to say we lag behind countries like the UK and North America. Encouragingly, the research has also shown there is a readiness to explore new ways of improving Australian healthcare delivery by tapping into the wisdom of health consumers and the wider public.

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