Download the 2020 Year in Review Report (PDF, 8.5 MB)

Strengthening Patient Engagement to Improve Care and Shared Decision Making

Patient engagement in healthcare leads to improvements in safety, quality, and satisfaction of care. Digital healthcare tools can facilitate patient engagement via the use of patient portals, smartphones, and tracking vitals or symptoms with wearable technology or mobile apps. Digital healthcare also helps patients to participate more actively in their own health self-management, chronic care management, and wellness at various points of interaction with the healthcare system. In 2020, AHRQ Digital Healthcare Research Program invested $37.4 million in grants and contracts to help patients, families, and health professionals work together as partners in promoting care improvements over the duration of the projects. Read more to learn how this research has strengthened patient engagement to improve care and shared decision making.



Self-management support is central to patient-centered care and care coordination in primary care settings. Digital tools can enable better self-management and provide support to people with chronic conditions, including older adults, which enables them to manage their health on a day-to-day basis. This self-management support can help and inspire people to learn more about their conditions and to take an active role in their healthcare.


Many potentially effective e-health technologies do not achieve widespread adoption by older adults due to a lack of accessible, user-friendly delivery platforms. To address this, Dr. Judith T. Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh is studying older adults’ perceptions of, motivations to use, and patterns of using an adaptive, multiuser health kiosk located in convenient community locations, to see if there are improvements in self-management of chronic disease symptoms.


Dr. Susan Louise Moore and a Denver Health and Hospital Authority-based research team studied the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies by low-income, disadvantaged populations to generate high-quality, patient-generated health data and patient-reported outcomes data. The research team assessed the needs and preferences of patients and their primary care providers and found that COTS solutions such as mobile phones and fitness trackers can successfully engage patients to collect health data to better manage their care. These data are actionable for use in chronic disease self-management and care planning and can be integrated into clinical information systems in the future.

Read Dr. Moore's Impact Story


Patient Engagement

Patient engagement using digital healthcare technology has become commonplace in healthcare through the ubiquitous patient adoption of computers, smartphones, and tablets. Engagement tools have patient and healthcare navigation capabilities, support chronic disease management programs, and connect patients with their care using remote patient monitoring capabilities. Digital tools supporting patient engagement lead to measurable improvements in safety, quality, and satisfaction of care.


Dr. Carolyn A. McCarty of Seattle Children’s Hospital studied the use of a tablet-based interactive health assessment (iHA) to conduct personalized, multi-risk screening for youth to inform clinician-delivered health risk behavior counseling. The research team conducted a two-phase mixed-methods study and found that although the iHA contributed to higher rates of clinician counseling for endorsed behaviors, it did not affect self-reported health risk behaviors. Despite these mixed findings, this underscores the need for more research to identify effective risk reduction and patient engagement strategies using technology in adolescent primary care.


Dr. Wanda Pratt of the University of Washington and research team investigated the informational needs of hospitalized patients to communicate more effectively with their healthcare teams and engage in their own care planning. The researchers identified several key areas of patient need, which informed the development of three technological prototypes to support inpatients and their care partners in capturing and managing health information, concerns, and questions. The study underscored the need to understand how digital healthcare tools can be used to support patients’ and caregivers’ access to—and engagement with—meaningful information, allowing them to communicate more effectively with their healthcare teams.