Patient Engagement vs Patient Advocacy

What's the Difference?

Jul 26, 2018 1:53:47 PM / by John Kouten, CEO

advocacy2JFK Communication is witnessing a new trend in healthcare. The terms Patient Engagement and Patient Advocacy are being used interchangeably. So, are these two functions different?

Patient Engagement, simply defined, is a combination of ability and expertise to improve the patient’s experience and encourage them to take positive action. According to a recent LinkedIn article and HIMSS, healthcare companies such as Get Real Health, Welvu, and AbilTo are developing tools such as wearable devices, patient generated health data, online patient communities and health literacy to educate and communicate with patients. Patients want to be involved in the healthcare decision making process.

Patient Advocacy is defined as an organization, group or Individual that shares its concerns for healthcare. Patient Advocates serve as educators, supporters and spokespersons.  They advocate for patients, survivors and caregivers with a goal to make a change. Patient advocacy has evolved over the past four decades and is now an integral part of battling most diseases.  

HIV/AIDS Activists – Fearless Pioneers

Regardless of the title – Manager of Patient Engagement or Director of Patient Advocacy – we owe a strong debt of gratitude for health activism pioneers, especially HIV/AIDS advocates.

Starting in the 1980’s, leaders in the HIV/AIDS community began to build processes, templates and best practices in patient advocacy and engagement, which we still use today.  Most organizations draw from the expertise and experience pioneered by HIV/AIDS activists from the 1980’s and 1990’s. We can thank these advocacy leaders for key developments, including:

  • Patient-driven clinical trial designs
  • Expanded access to new drugs
  • Government funding for research
  • Government funding for care
  • Skillful use of media

Today’s patient advocacy and engagement community also benefit from some of the mistakes made by their HIV/AIDS activist forebears.  Most of today’s advocates prefer to be a part of the process versus engaging in fear-mongering and civil disobedience. 

Patient Advocacy and Patient Engagement – More similarities than Differences

While the terms differ, the functions require overlapping skill sets, and in some cases are interchangeable.  We’re now seeing Patient Advocates working with companies to increase and improve patient engagement. According to MK&A, Advocates are assisting with clinal trial recruitment and awareness efforts, providing input on patient reported outcomes and providing advice on clinical trial protocols.   

Patients, caregivers and their loved ones are very active in today’s healthcare environment.  Patient advocacy and patient engagement experts have a plethora of tools at their disposal to help achieve the goal of improved patient outcomes.  Most of these tools were forged in the fire of the HIV/AIDS community in the 1980’s. And today, these tools have been retro-fitted for use by all disease advocates for Internet-based applications and social media channels.

“This is the most exciting time for patient empowerment,” said John F. Kouten, CEO of JFK Communications. “The Internet, social media and smart devices have opened the world to better and measurable patient advocacy and patient engagement.”

Topics: healthcare public relations, patient advocacy, life science marketing, life science PR, life science communications

John Kouten, CEO

Written by John Kouten, CEO