Engagement is about proactively establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships with patients to understand and improve health services.
(UK Department of Health: 2008)
Engagement is a fundamental element that underpins any piece of improvement work, large or small, and should occur throughout the life of your service improvement project.
It is recommended that you establish relationships with patients before you begin your improvement work so that you find out whether patients see a need for change, whether they have an interest in being involved, and the best ways for obtaining their ongoing participation. However, you can still benefit from engagement with patients at any time during your work.
As well as establishing relationships with patients, it is important to have customer champions on any group you may have overseeing the service improvement work, e.g. steering or reference groups.
What is a customer champion?
Champions are people who believe in and actively promote your project or service improvement work. (NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, 2010). In co-design, customer champions are patients who are committed to your project while actively representing the views of patients.