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Tufts Health Communication » Uncategorized » New tool for health communicators: the Patient Activation Model

New tool for health communicators: the Patient Activation Model

A growing body of research points to the Patient Activation Model (PAM) as a promising new method to improve health outcomes and lower health care costs. PAM takes a health communication approach to engage patients with the knowledge and confidence to maintain health behaviors.

What is the patient activation model?
The Patient Activation Model is based on four levels of patient beliefs and knowledge of their health.
At Level 1, people identify as passive recipients of care.
During Level 2, people are beginning to learn how their behavior connects to the larger context of overall health, yet they are still unclear about basic health facts.
Level 3
people are actively building knowledge to manage their health. They still lack the confidence and skills to maintain behaviors.
Level 4
people take active role to maintain their health. They have the confidence and skillsets to successfully adopt new health behaviors. However, patients may not be maintain these behaviors under extreme stress or crisis.

Health policy researcher, Judith Hibbard, has developed a validated survey to measure these levels of patient activation. She worked with fellow researchers to analyze over 30,000 patients and according to a randomized control study, patient level of activation is linked to improved self-management of health behaviors. Furthermore, improved levels of patient activation lowered health care costs.

How can health communicators use PAM?
Organizations use PAM to identify at-risk patients, target resources and tailor implementation to support patients along the activation process. Health communicators can use information about patient beliefs and knowledge to inform communication strategies. PAM can serve as a model to develop communications to effectively educate, inform and engage patients within the healthcare setting.

Does PAM have the potential to unite the key players in the health care arena–patients, providers and insurance? How do health communication theories or other models like the Medical Home relate to PAM? How could PAM be used to supplement health communication theory?

Want to learn more about PAM? Check out the following:

 “Self-Management and HealthCare Utilization” a study by Judith H. Hibbard, Eldon R. Mahoney, Ronald Stock, and Martin Tusler:
To see PAM in healthcare setting see Insignia Health Steps to incorporate PAM with your organization:
Health Affairs Policy Brief on Patient Engagement

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