Patient engagement at the time of COVID-19: why is it important?

According to experts, there is a real chance that a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready in early 2021. As a result, we may be on the eve of the largest patient engagement campaign ever. A substantial part of the population has doubts about the usefulness, effectiveness and safety of a possible COVID-19 vaccine. This is problematic, because vaccination only works if a large part of the population is vaccinated. Although resistance to vaccination is timeless, the future COVID-19 vaccine is under extra magnification. It is therefore very important that governments of countries all over the world create support for the vaccine. Patient engagement will play a major role in this.

What is patient engagement?

Patient engagement is a broad term that refers to involving the patient as much as possible in their own healthcare. Interaction and communication between the patient and healthcare provider is central to this. From the perspective of the care provider, this means that he informs the patient about (new) treatment options, for example, shares his knowledge and constantly enters into a dialogue with the patient. As a result, patients are actively involved in making decisions regarding their own health.

Why is patient engagement important?

According to the WHO, patient engagement is a crucial part of patient safety and quality improvement of care around the world. Affected patients more often consult with a healthcare provider to discuss improvements or adjustments to the care provided. This strengthens the relationship between patient and healthcare provider, giving patients more access to the correct medical information. This is important, because despite the fact that the distance between patients and healthcare providers has become smaller in this digital age, there are many online channels through which a patient can obtain (incorrect) information. Resistance to a possible COVID-19 vaccine is an example of this. Some opponents of vaccination use social media to influence public opinion.

Benefits of patient engagement

Some people feel that patients should simply always blindly follow the advice of healthcare providers. After all, medical professionals are experts. But several studies show that patient engagement offers several benefits. To begin with, involved patients lead to better treatment outcomes. This is because they are more willing to adjust their own behavior and lifestyle to support their treatment. In addition, they have more knowledge of their own conditions and the steps to take to treat them. This enables healthcare providers to diagnose and treat problems better and faster. This improvement in the quality and safety of care not only benefits patients. Patients who are happy with the care they are offered generally stick with their current care provider or treatment for longer. Satisfied patients mean more income for healthcare providers and manufacturers of medicines.

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