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‘Practical’ resources to support patient and family engagement in healthcare decisions: a scoping review

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Kovacs Burns K1, Bellows M, Eigenseher C, Gallivan J.



Extensive literature exists on public involvement or engagement, but what actual tools or guides exist that are practical, tested and easy to use specifically for initiating and implementing patient and family engagement, is uncertain. No comprehensive review and synthesis of general international published or grey literature on this specific topic was found. A systematic scoping review of published and grey literature is, therefore, appropriate for searching through the vast general engagement literature to identify ‘patient/family engagement’ tools and guides applicable in health organization decision-making, such as within Alberta Health Services in Alberta, Canada. This latter organization requested this search and review to inform the contents of a patient engagement resource kit for patients, providers and leaders.


Search terms related to ‘patient engagement’, tools, guides, education and infrastructure or resources, were applied to published literature databases and grey literature search engines. Grey literature also included United States, Australia and Europe where most known public engagement practices exist, and Canada as the location for this study. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were set, and include: English documents referencing ‘patient engagement’ with specific criteria, and published between 1995 and 2011. For document analysis and synthesis, document analysis worksheets were used by three reviewers for the selected 224 published and 193 grey literature documents. Inter-rater reliability was ensured for the final reviews and syntheses of 76 published and 193 grey documents.


Seven key themes emerged from the literature synthesis analysis, and were identified for patient, provider and/or leader groups. Articles/items within each theme were clustered under main topic areas of ‘tools’, ‘education’ and ‘infrastructure’. The synthesis and findings in the literature include 15 different terms and definitions for ‘patient engagement’, 17 different engagement models, numerous barriers and benefits, and 34 toolkits for various patient engagement and evaluation initiatives.


Patient engagement is very complex. This scoping review for patient/family engagement tools and guides is a good start for a resource inventory and can guide the content development of a patient engagement resource kit to be used by patients/families, healthcare providers and administrators.

Resource: BMC Health Serv Res. 2014 Apr 15;14:175