While patient engagement describes the act of participating in decisions about your own care, activation describes a patient's willingness and capacity to do so.
While she didn't coin the term, Judith Hibbard, PhD, of the University of Oregon has developed and tested a way to measure patient activation. An emeritus professor at the school's Institute for Policy Research, she has spent 10 years collecting data on the efficacy of a 13-question survey called the Patient Activation Measure.
The survey gauges whether a patient has the drive and skills needed to stick to a follow-up plan. It asks patients whether they feel responsible for managing their own health. It also asks whether they know how to prevent complications. Their answers to these and 11 other questions slot patients into one of four activation categories: "Low activated" patients are unlikely or unwilling to play an active role in their care, while "high activated" patients are most likely be fully involved.
Search PubMed on Hibbard's name and you get hit after hit of research validating how well the PAM predicts a patient's level of engagement. Now, she and others are generating data on the impact of PAM on readmissions. Hibbard has licensed the test to a company called Insignia Health, which sells it with the slogan "Measure. Engage. Activate."