Header Logo


Empowering Patients as Partners in Healthcare Safety

Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre

By Renee Rensburg | 17-Sep-2023

A paradigm shift:

‘From Doing things “TO” the Patient – to... Doing things “WITH” the Patient for Healthcare Safety.

The patient is considered the centre of the healthcare team, but how often do we truly consider them as part of this team?

We commonly underestimate the capability of the "patient" to mitigate harm in patient care and often overlook the opportunities that patients offer to ensure safer healthcare. It is healthcare information and dialogue in patient care processes that play a crucial role and give "power" to patients to contribute toward safer healthcare.

“Giving Power” to patients or “Patient empowerment” is one of the key elements of patient-centred healthcare. This is both a prerequisite and an outcome of today's "patient-centred care." It is also considered a "process" and a "goal" for advancing healthcare.

The following are aspects of patient empowerment:

  1. Health literacy/Healthcare information.
  2. Shared decision-making.
  3. Self-management.

Such healthcare transformation requires and promotes sustained transitions, moving from perspectives of "paternalism" to "patient autonomy," and it should be embedded across all layers of healthcare. The European Patient Forum (EPF) defines "Patient Empowerment" as "a process that helps people gain control over their own lives and increases their capacity to act on issues that they themselves define as important."

With a deeper understanding of healthcare systems and cultures, we may need to acknowledge that, while "patient empowerment" might be the preferred concept from an advocacy perspective, less challenging and more acceptable terms like "patient partnership" can also be considered as viable concepts for implementation in our journey toward safer healthcare.

Whether it is patient "empowerment" or "partnership," the essence of the concept lies in respecting, involving, and recognizing patients' capabilities in healthcare. This journey represents a paradigm shift in the culture and outlook of healthcare providers, healthcare leadership, and organizational systems.

Examples of moving forward in this direction may be:

  • Patient education on “International Patients Safety Goals” – It can help them recognise opportunities for their safety in healthcare and empower them to be the "Voice" when deviations from these safety norms are evident.
  • Active patient-provider communication: Healthcare providers’ actively inviting patient’s questions or feedback to ensure effective healthcare information communication.
  • Conduct hand-offs at the patient’s bedside: This will aid patients and their families to contribute to the information sharing process and participate in safer care transmissions.
  • Co-create safer healthcare: Engaging with patients & families as part of quality improvements processes & committee representations to help co-create safer healthcare processes & environments.
  • Community engagement: Partnering and engaging with advocacy groups, educational institutes, workplaces, and other community organizations to educate the wider community about patient safety and the importance of active patient participation in healthcare.
  • Cultural change: Fostering and upholding cultural change in healthcare with a “bottom-up approach,” to ensure implementation of empowering concepts of patient safety processes through the healthcare system.

“People are inherently creative and want to shape their own experiences.”

- Building the Co-Creative Enterprise (Harvard Business Review)


These initiatives can help create a more patient-centred and safety-oriented healthcare system that recognizes the value of patients as active participants in their own care.

In short, as we empower, engage and partner with patients, we facilitate the co-creation of safer healthcare spaces. This approach leads to better patient experiences, curated with mutually agreed-upon, optimal, and safer patient outcomes.



Google Play Icon
Get it onGoogle Play
App Store Icon
Download on theApp Store
  • Facebook Icon
  • X Icon
  • Youtube Icon
  • Instagram Icon

© 2023 Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre