Engaging patients in hospital service planning and improvement


Involving patients (or family/care partners/the public) in planning or improving hospital services is associated with improved patient and hospital outcomes. Little research has studied patient engagement (PE) in Canada. We described how hospitals engage patients, and identified the most impactful PE strategies.

Key Findings

  • Identified limited research on how to optimize hospital PE [BMC Health Serv Res 2021;21:179].
  • Interviewed 40 patient/family advisors, PE managers, clinicians and executives from 9 high-PE hospitals, revealing key strategies that supported PE: involve diverse patients, prioritize what benefits many, match patients to projects, train patients and health-care workers, involve a critical volume of patients, require at least one patient for quorum, ask involved patients to review outputs, link PE with the Board of Directors and enlist PE champions [Health Expect 2021; 24:967-77].
  • Explored key hospital characteristics that contribute to PE capacity: (1) resources –  funding and people dedicated to PE, and technology to enable communication and collaboration; (2) training – initial introduction and project-specific training for patient/family advisors, and orientation for new and existing staff on PE; and (3) organizational commitment – endorsement from the CEO and Board, commitment from staff, and continuous evaluation and improvement [Int J Qual Health Care 20212021;33:mzab147].
  • Identified a framework of PE impacts at the level of hospital, clinicians and patient/family research partners involved in PE, clinicians practicing in the hospital, and patient/family hospital users [BMC Health Serv Res 2022;22:360].
  • A 55-member panel of patient/family advisors, PE managers, clinicians and researchers generated consensus on 32 priority recommendations across 5 domains: engagement approaches, ensuring diversity, strategies to support PE, strategies to champion PE and hospital capacity [BMJ open in press].
  • Created a case book of 40 accounts of hospital PE from patient/family advisors, PE managers, clinicians and corporate executives at high-PE hospitals of different types and sizes. PDF


These findings were disseminated by the Ontario Hospital Association to its members, Healthcare Excellence Canada to policymakers, healthcare leaders and researchers across Canada; and the University Health Network both internally and to external stakeholders via social media. This research can help hospitals ensure that the patient voice is used to improve what hospitals do. Long-term, this could improve health service delivery, and patient experiences and health.